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Air France pilots plan to gather outside the French National Assembly today to rally political support for their strike after rejecting an overture by airline management to end the dispute that’s now in its second week.
An offer by Chief Executive Officer Alexandre de Juniac to delay an expansion of discount unit Transavia is a “smokescreen” that “doesn’t solve any problem,” the SNPL union representing pilots said in a statement. The union called on members to meet near parliament at 2 p.m. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls called for an end to the labor action, saying “it is not understood by the French.”
Air France management have said they are prepared to curtail the expansion of low-cost unit Transavia outside France and the Netherlands in a move aimed at ending the carrier’s most disruptive strike since 1998. About 60 percent of Air France pilots have been off the job since last Monday, causing an operating loss of as much as 20 million euros ($25.7 million) a day.
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Support for strike action is not waning even after eight days of walk-outs, the SNPL said. In a statement the eight labor union representing pilots, cabin grew and ground staff called on the government to take “all the necessary steps to put a stop to the dismantling” of Air France.
Pilots are concerned that growth at Transavia could lead to a transfer of routes from Air France itself, mirroring a process at rival Deutsche Lufthansa AG, which is shifting flights to its Germanwings discount unit.
De Juniac, CEO for the past year, had previously said that with expenses at Transavia France still not low enough, a more competitive arm might need be established elsewhere in order to end short-haul losses and fend off the challenge of discount carriers such as EasyJet Plc.
The cost difference between a Transavia and regular Air France flight is 27 percent, according to de Juniac. While postponing growth plans for Transavia Europe, Air France demanded that pilots agree to accelerate the growth of the discount unit within France beyond the jets it operates today.
–With assistance from Gregory Viscusi in Paris.
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