Air France Offers Flexibility in Latest Plan for Pilot Peace

  • Proposal could see crews work 10% more hours for same salary
  • SNPL union given until May 2 to accept `compromise' solution

Air France submitted a fresh proposal to its pilots calling on them to work hours that are 5 to 10 percent longer for the same overall pay, while offering what the carrier said would amount to greater flexibility and pledging to hire more cockpit crew once terms are agreed.

Frederic Gagey, chief executive officer of Air France-KLM Group’s French unit, and Gilles Gateau, its human resources director, put forward the “compromise offer” at a meeting on Sunday, setting a May 2 deadline for a response from the SNPL union, the two men said in a phone briefing.

Air France sought to sweeten the proposal by offering to hire more than 600 pilots by 2020, including 50 in 2016, raising the number to 3,900 from 3,600 currently. The new terms come after Alexandre de Juniac, CEO of parent Air France-KLM group, said last week he was leaving after after almost three years of wrangling with pilots over costs.

“This new offer would let both sides share in the gains,” Gateau said on the call Monday.

Strike, Violence

De Juniac said after announcing his exit that the company must press on with restructuring plans if it’s too compete with low-cost carriers such as EasyJet Plc in Europe and Gulf operators led by Emirates on long-haul routes.

The outgoing CEO’s tenure was blighted by a pilot strike in 2014 that cost Air France-KLM almost 500 million ($570 million), and violent clashes last year that saw executives flee a works council meeting with their clothes in tatters.

Air France previously set a January deadline for a savings accord with cockpit crew, a date that passed without comment from the company.

The carrier said the latest plan would give it the flexibility to call on pilots to work extra hours during the busiest periods, while declining to provide details about the extra hours sought. Airbus Group SE A380 crews fly an average 653 hours a year, it said, compared with 600 for A340s and 740 for Boeing Co. 777s, most commonly used for long-haul flights.

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