No Canadians: Air France unions call for French CEO

Air Canada exec to become new CEO of Air France-KLM

Air Canada exec to become new CEO of Air France-KLM

Air Canada today announced that Benjamin Smith, President, Airlines and Chief Operating Officer, has advised the Corporation that he will resign his position effective August 31, 2018 to accept a role as chief executive officer at an European-based global airline.

The union statement, which said the new boss needed "intimate knowledge... of the French social model", said that the board was expected to hold a teleconference on Thursday to discuss the nomination.

He was tipped to emerge as the new boss of the airline by France's leftwing Liberation newspaper on Wednesday. Anne-Marie Couderc, non-executive Chairman of the Air France-KLM and Air France Boards, and the Management Committee consisting of three members, will continue to perform their duties until then.

"Other countries and governments show fierce protectionism when it comes to their airlines".

Smith could face a rough reception from the company's employees.

That is how they referred to the role of the American Delta Airlines, which owns 8.8 percent of the capital of Air France-KLM.

Recent tweaks to a collective agreement with pilots at Air Canada's low-cost Rouge unit allowed the carrier to use more narrow-body planes for the subsidiary, a "weapon" Air Canada can now use to compete against ultra-low-fare upstarts such as WestJet Airlines Ltd.'s Swoop and Edmonton-based Flair Airlines, Kokonis said.

"It's a chance for Air France-KLM to attract a leader of this stature who has great experience acquired through 19 years with Air Canada, an openness to dialogue and a large capacity to transform", Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire and Transport Minister Elisabeth Borne said in a joint statement.

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While the appointment of a foreigner to run an airline might be controversial in France, it's by no means unusual elsewhere.

Vincent Salles, an official at the CGT-Air France union, told France Info radio on Friday that unions fear Smith's mission is to implement plans that would "deteriorate working conditions and wages".

According to a report from Reuters, Smith will have a challenge in renegotiating Air France labour contracts to cut costs.

Smith is no stranger to management-labour acrimony.

2 at Air Canada will be the first non-French national to helm the Franco-Dutch carrier.

In March of that year, baggage handlers and ground workers staged an impromptu walkout that lasted 24 hours and led to more than 80 flights being cancelled.

"I thank Ben for his significant contributions in many various roles at Air Canada over the past two decades", CEO Calin Rovinescu said in a statement.

Smith served as Air Canada's second in command and is known for putting shareholders' interest first; he is credited with developing Air Canada's low-priced subsidiary Rouge.

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