Air France-KLM Said to Pick Jean-Marc Janaillac as New CEO

  • Gagey, head of Air France unit, will remain in that post
  • Eventual appointee must take on unions for modest salary

Jean-Marc Janaillac

Photographer: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg

Air France-KLM Group selected veteran transportation manager Jean-Marc Janaillac as its new chief executive officer, a person familiar with the decision said Saturday, as the carrier wrestles with its labor unions.

Frederic Gagey, who was under consideration as late as this week, will remain head of Air France-KLM Group’s main French unit, said the person familiar with the CEO selection, who declined to be named as the deliberations are private.

Janaillac, 63, the chairman and CEO of Transdev, was selected by a nominations committee on Friday, and he must be confirmed by the company’s board of directors Tuesday ahead of the general shareholder meeting in mid-May.

Janaillac would replace CEO Alexandre de Juniac, who three weeks ago unexpectedly announced his decision to step down so he can lead the world’s biggest airline trade group, the International Air Transport Association. The Janaillac appointment was initially reported by French newspaper La Tribune.

The French government, with a 15.9 percent holding in Air France-KLM, has preferred appointees with a background in the higher echelons of public service. De Juniac was chief of staff to International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde when she was French finance minister under President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Janaillac currently runs Transdev, operator of rail and bus lines in 18 countries. In the 1990s, he managed French airline AOM, which focused on carrying passengers between the French mainland and overseas territories. AOM merged with Air Liberte, a private French airline, and was purchased by Swissair Group, then ultimately folded.

The next chief of Air France-KLM will need to face down unions in one of Europe’s bitterest labor disputes. After announcing his departure, de Juniac said the company is trailing badly in a race with more powerful rivals and said a 10-day pilot walkout in 2014 had been “a frontal attack” on the company.

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