The future of the Franco-Dutch airline combine Air France KLM may now be at stake after the resignation on Friday of its CEO Jean-Marc Janaillac.
Janaillac announced his resignation on Friday (May 4) after staff at the carrier’s French operations rejected a pay deal but will stay on until the group’s AGM on 15 May. Strikes at Air France have cost the company €300m so far this year.
In the meantime industry experts and government officials are scrambling to find a solution to the problems. Air France has been the target of strikes by its pilots, cabin crew and ground staff who are demanding higher pay and better conditions.
On Sunday, French finance minister Bruno Le Maire urged unions and management to return to the negotiating table to find a solution to the wage dispute. Le Maire warned that Air France could not count on any French government support to keep it operational, the Financieele Dagblad said on Monday.
The French government holds a 14% stake in Air France. ‘We are a minority shareholder, anyone who thinks the government will spring to action to save Air France, has got it wrong,’ Le Maire said in an interview.
‘If Air France does not become more competitive, it will cease to exist,’ Le Maire said.
The Telegraaf said KLM is a matter of Dutch national interest and suggested the government step in. ‘The cabinet must prepare a few scenarios. It’s a matter of national interest,’ said Jan Willem van Dijk, chairman of KLM’s works council. The Dutch government has a 5.9% stake in KLM.
Bob van der Wal, who heads the KLM Professionals association, agreed. ‘The government has to track closely developments at Air France KLM. There is a huge leadership crisis at Air France and this is a threat to KLM’s continuity,’ he said.
KLM can make use of the power vacuum to loosen its ties with Air France. But you need political support at the highest level to accomplish this, said aviation consultant Ruud Jansen. Jansen suggests that Dutch premier Mark Rutte meet with French president Emmanuel Macron to discuss the matter, the Telegraaf said.