Air France braced for worst strike in 16 years

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Up to half of airline's services set to be cancelled on Monday, the start of week-long action by pilots over plans to expand low-cost operations.

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Air France  said it’s bracing for the most disruptive strike since 1998 tomorrow as pilots walk out over management plans to expand low-cost operations using flight crew paid less than at the mainline carrier, reports Bloomberg.

The French arm of Air France-KLM Group, Europe’s biggest airline, expects to cancel 52 percent of services on the first day of an action due to run through Sept. 22. The dispute will cost 20 million euros ($26 million) a day in revenue, it said.

“We’re telling people who don’t absolutely have to travel to postpone their trip,” Air France head of operations Catherine Jude said in a briefing at the carrier’s Paris Charles de Gaulle airport base. “Talks with unions are continuing.”

Pilots are staging the walkout as Air France-KLM chief executive officer Alexandre de Juniac seeks to end decades of short-haul losses. Former Dutch charter unit Transavia will be further expanded into France with a fleet that could double in size, the company said this week, confirming plans that unions say will prompt job losses and pay cuts at the main airline.

This week’s action could have the biggest impact on travel at Air France since an eight-day strike 16 years ago over the French government taking the airline public, a dispute that involved 3,000 pilots and forced 75 percent of flights to be scrapped at a cost equivalent to $166 million today.

Read more of this report from Bloomberg.

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