ATW Editor's Blog

Lufthansa-Air France or BA-Air France?

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Today's news that Air France-KLM CEO Jean-Marc Janaillac will offer his resignation next week raises questions.

Janaillac put his neck on the line in April when he attempted to stand up to the potentially ruinous holdouts of its unions, whose strike actions have so far cost the company some $350 million.

By inviting all employees--unionized or not--to participate in a vote on the company's multi-year pay offer, Janaillac must surely have hoped that the outcome would have been a show of support; that the majority of staff believed the offer was fair. But that was not the case; 55% of the 80% who voted said "non". And the CEO is following through on his pledge to step down.

So is Janaillac that much out of touch, not just with the union leaders, but also with the majority of his employees? Is the senior management-employee divide so wide that neither side can communicate honestly? If that's the case, then a change of senior leadership is necessary. But that leadership ultimately may not be French.

Which leads to the next question: Do Air France employees seriously not understand that their company is on a path, if not to disaster (see Alitalia), then at least to the next big European airline consolidation? Air France-KLM-Lufthansa? Air France-KLM-IAG? Air France-KLM-Ryanair? For many a French citizen, these potential outcomes might be worse than simply going defunct. But Air France's employees have voted this week  to take the airline closer to that possibility than ever before.

Karen Walker, karen.walker@informa.com 

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