Air France: Strikers against reality

THE good news is that Air France has an idea for getting back into the black: building up Transavia, the low-cost, short-haul carrier it shares with its partner, the Dutch flag-carrier, KLM. The bad news is that its pilots won’t allow it; they want Transavia’s pilots to be on the same pay and conditions as they enjoy. The fear is that an expanded Transavia will cut into Air France’s own short-haul services and that its pilots will be fired or forced to accept pay cuts. They have gone on strike in protest. The strike, in its fourth day as we went to press on September 18th, may be the worst at the airline since a particularly confrontational 1998. Around half of all flights were being grounded, with daily losses the company puts at €15m ($19m).Air France-KLM, Lufthansa and International Airlines Group (IAG, which owns British Airways and Iberia), are all in the same fix. Low-cost rivals such as EasyJet and Ryanair now dominate short-haul services. Europe’s national flag-carriers are struggling to stay in short-haul, to ensure they have passengers to feed into their more profitable long-haul routes. They have tried slashing fares but are hitting the limits of this, because of entrenched working conditions and determined unions. All three are plumping for new solutions.Last year IAG took over Vueling, a budget airline based in Barcelona that serves mainly Spain and the…

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