Air France-KLM is nearing two months without a CEO, with a replacement for Jean-Marc Janaillac, who left May 15 following a bitter dispute with unions over pay, still to be found. 

The group wants to name a new CEO in July, but the process of finding a suitable candidate has been fraught with difficulty.

One apparent front-runner for the post, Philippe Capron, the CFO of water and waste group Veolia, was ruled out for his lack of aviation experience.

French newspaper Le Figaro reported July 8 that French public transport group RATP CEO Catherine Guillouard, who previously spent a decade at Air France in a variety of roles, was the new favorite for the top job. 

Pieter Elbers, the CEO of the group’s smaller partner KLM, and interim deputy-CEO of the group along with his Air France counterpart Franck Terner, is also among the possible candidates, although it would be the first time a non-French national headed up the Air France-KLM group.

French transport minister Elisabeth Borne said June 27 on Radio Classique that it was important the new Air France-KLM CEO was an air transport professional.

The French state owns 14.3% of Air France-KLM while China Eastern Airlines and US-based Delta Air Lines hold 8.8% each.

The airline group has been led by an interim management team since Janaillac’s departure, which came after staff rejected a pay proposal on which he had staked his future with the group, but with tough competition at home and abroad it needs a leader to continue the progress Janaillac had made on improving competitiveness.

Janaillac had launched the turnaround plan, Trust Together, in November 2016 and had made overseeing achievements including alliances, the launch of its hybrid, lower-cost airline Joon and an improvement in Transavia’s performance.

The group is scheduled to announce its first-half financial results Aug. 1.

Helen Massy-Beresford, helen.massy-beresford@aviationweek.co.uk