Thursday, February 23, 2017

Air France pilots agree to long-haul LCC

Air France pilots have approved in principle the carrier’s plan to create a low-cost, long-haul airline, Boost, to drive growth.

This brings the carrier a step closer to implementing an important element of its turnaround plan.

Air France-KLM, which has a tense relationship with its unions, unveiled an ambitious new strategic plan in November. It aims to cut costs and drive growth amid a highly competitive operating environment for European airlines. The plan included Boost, which will have a different name by the time it begins operating.

The carrier plans to offer passengers on board the new low-cost carrier (LCC) a comparable experience to Air France flights, but to keep organizational costs lower to better compete with rivals, including Gulf carriers.

Air France management submitted the plan to pilots Feb. 9 after long negotiations. The main pilots’ union, Syndicat National des Pilotes de Ligne (SNPL), said Feb. 20 that 73.8% of pilots had taken part in the vote, with 58.1% voting in favor of the Boost plan. However, the SNPL cautioned the vote did not give carte blanche approval to a text the union said Air France management unilaterally proposed.

The union added it would need numerous guarantees from management, and that the project as it stands lacks guarantees on how activity would be balanced with KLM, which would be a cornerstone of making the LCC work. The SNPL board will study the text at its Feb. 22 meeting, and will likely need further talks with management to reach a compromise that could be put to a vote by its members.

“Air France management takes note of this result, which was marked by a strong participation and reflects a desire to move forward,” an Air France spokesman said of the Boost vote.

Air France has not yet decided which destinations the LCC will serve. It may use Airbus A350 aircraft on long-haul routes, while Airbus A320s will serve medium-haul destinations. The new airline’s total fleet should reach up to 28 aircraft. Medium-haul operations are scheduled to begin at the end of 2017, with long-haul routes starting in 2018.

(Helen Massy-Beresford - Aviation Week / ATWOnline News)

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