Bloomberg News

Air France Scraps Flights as Pilots, Attendants Go on Strike

February 07, 2012

(Updates with shares in fifth paragraph, passenger comment starting in seventh.)

Feb. 6 (Bloomberg) -- Air France scrapped some flights today because of a strike by pilots, cabin crew and ground workers over proposed changes to rules governing labor protests.

The French unit of Air France-KLM Group operated 449 flights as of 12:30 p.m. in Paris, Cedric Leurquin, an airline spokesman, said by phone, without specifying how many were scheduled to operate by that point today. The full day’s timetable called for 1,332 flights.

The strike, planned to extend through Feb. 9, comes less than three months after Alexandre de Junaic took charge as chief executive at Air France, succeeding Pierre-Henri Gourgeon, who left amid financial losses. The parent airline will post a loss of “several hundred million euros” for 2011 after fuel costs increased, de Juniac told French legislators on Jan. 25.

Unions are protesting a bill to be considered by the French Senate that would oblige each employee planning to strike to give 48 hours’ notice. The measure would give the airline a better idea of how travelers would be affected.

Air France-KLM declined as much as 4.4 percent in Paris trading and was down 3.9 percent at 5.13 euros at 3:56 p.m. local time. International Consolidated Airlines Group, the parent of British Airways, fell 1.9 percent in London, and Deutsche Lufthansa AG was down 1.3 percent in Frankfurt.

Late Notice

Air France passengers had to wait until this morning to know whether they would fly, and some who were told earlier that things looked good were later disappointed.

Radomir Hikl, a professor of homeopathic medicine based in Bangkok, had planned to return home from vacation in Prague via Paris with his wife and two children, and was told early this morning that the Air France leg from Paris to Bangkok would probably take off. By midday, he was told the flight would likely be canceled and the airline said it would try to find him a flight by tomorrow.

“They should have told me on Friday,” Hikl said in an interview by phone from Prague. “Now today, when they try to find me something else, airlines like Lufthansa and Austrian are already full.

“It’s very frustrating,” he said. “These employees should have the right to strike but maybe they should find some other way to block things, for example by blocking the French parliament. They shouldn’t punish the passengers.”

The airline sent 22,000 e-mails and text messages alerting passengers to the disruption, though 20 percent of the flights canceled were scrapped at the last minute, Leurquin said.

“De Juniac is meeting with various employee groups to discuss the situation,” Leurquin said.

--Editors: David Risser, Tom Lavell

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrea Rothman in Toulouse, France, at aerothman@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chad Thomas at cthomas16@bloomberg.net


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