MOSCOW, September 15 (RIA Novosti) – Air France-KLM shares fell 3.7 percent on Monday, the first day of a weeklong strike at its French arm, sparked by the company’s restructuring plans and with costs expected up to $20 million, Reuters reports.
Air France operated at less than 50 percent of its normal flight capacity out of two major airports in Paris on Monday, with up to 85,000 people affected by flights cancellations and delays, according to the New York Times. Although the company alerted tens of thousands of passengers, many were distressed. “I can't return home, thanks for the joy,” said Jean-Marc Ragot, as quoted by AFP. “I've had it up to here with strikes in France. One always has a problem when one returns home.”
On Monday, four Air France flights from Paris to Moscow, as well one to Saint Petersburg were canceled, Russian newspaper Vedomosti reports, adding that three flights from Moscow to the French capital and two from Saint Petersburg were delayed.
The situation will likely deteriorate in the coming days, the New York Times warned citing Vincent Fournier, a spokesman for the National Union of Airline Pilots. Standby pilots, enlisted by Air France to work on Monday, will not be able to fill in on Tuesday and Wednesday due to “strict rest periods mandated by air safety regulators”.
As a result, the company announced that 60 percent of its flights will be canceled on Tuesday. However, SNPL, the main pilots’ union, said that up to 80 percent of flights might be canceled in the coming days, according to Deutsche Welle. That could lead to what AFP referred to as “travel mayhem across the country”.
On Monday, 60 percent of Air France pilots went on a weeklong strike following the company’s announcement that it was planning to move much of the short- and medium-haul services to its low-cost subsidiary Transavia. Air France hopes that would help to reduce the company’s costs and compete with low-cost rivals and Middle East carriers on the European market.
The decision caused waves of discontent among many Air France pilots and resulted in the first major walkout in 16 years. In 1998, 75 percent of flights were cancelled due to a strike that lasted eight days and cost the company $166 million, according to Bloomberg.
On Friday, Frederic Gagey, the company’s chief executive, said that the pilot walkout will cost Air France up to 15 million euros ($19.4 million) a day.
Furthermore, Lufthansa will halt operations in Frankfurt, its busiest airport, for eight hours on Tuesday. The pilots said they will strike over early retirement payments that the company wants to cut. The walkout is the latest in a series plaguing Germany’s biggest airlines.