Air France concedes to pilots’ demands

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After enduring 11 days of a crippling strike that grounded more than half of its fleet and cost €20 million per day, Air France agreed late Wednesday to abandon its plan to create a low-cost subsidiary airline, Transavia Europe. Instead, the carrier said it will limit its budget-airline investments to Transavia expansion within France. 

The French pilots’ union, SNLP, responded on Thursday, saying that it will resume negotiations with Air France-KLM, possibly to end what has been the longest strike the French and Dutch carrier has seen in more than 40 years. The union began the work stoppage on Sept. 15 over concerns that Air France’s investments in Transavia would shift too many jobs out of the country and put downward pressure on employee salaries.

The amount of cargo that has been disrupted since the strike began has not yet been disclosed by Air France. But considering the carrier’s strategy of relying heavily on belly space of wide-body passenger aircraft to ship much of its freight, the forced reduction of flights by 55 percent to 60 percent over the last two weeks is expected to be a severe blow to the French flag carrier, which was already struggling financially well before the strike. 

Meanwhile, more aviation labor trouble may be brewing again in Frankfurt. The German pilots’ union, Vereinigung Cockpit (VC), which has already held four strikes in 2014, has threatened another walkout at Lufthansa following the latest breakdown in long-running negotiations over the carrier’s pension package.

Lufthansa says it wants to scrap its program of allowing pilots to retire early, at age 55, and retain 60% of their salaries before pension payments begin, saying the policy became antiquated since the European Union allowed pilots to continue working past age 65.

VC said on Thursday it will announce the scheduled dates of the strike soon.

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