Air France’s Looming Strike Called ‘Destructive’ by KLM Unit

  • Air France, union talks have so far failed to thwart walkout
  • Strike threatens to hurt travel to Euro 2016 soccer matches

The plan by Air France pilots to begin an extended strike Saturday, the day after the carrier’s home country begins hosting the Euro 2016 soccer tournament, threatens to damage Europe’s largest airline group, its Dutch sister unit KLM said in a statement. 

Air France-KLM Group’s French arm has been meeting with pilot unions for days in an effort to avert a walkout. With less than 48 hours before the strike is set to begin, there has been no sign of an agreement, prompting KLM to go public with its concerns.

“KLM hopes sincerely that they will arrive at a solution that prevents such a destructive strike,” the Amsterdam-based carrier said Thursday in a statement. “KLM is very much a part of the Air France-KLM Group, and the negative image of a strike of this kind would also affect KLM.”

Air France chief Frederic Gagey and personnel chief Gilles Gateau plan to hold a briefing later Thursday.

The strike is part of a long-running dispute that has limited Air France’s ability to make changes to keep pace with lower-cost rivals. Hostilities were heightened after the airline won a court challenge, allowing it to force pilots to work more hours for the same pay. The measures went into effect on June 1.

Air France has said it will announce mid-morning Friday what percentage of flights will be canceled for Saturday, assuming no agreement has been reached by then. Other airlines including EasyJet Plc and Ryanair Holdings Plc have boosted planned flights into France during the soccer tournament, which lasts a month. KLM said Thursday it will rebook passengers affected by the strike to other airlines free of charge, and devote as many seats as possible to flights to France.

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