Two European Airline Unions Affect International Airlift

Two European airlines generated significant buzz last week as negotiations with unions went in two very different directions. 

Air France

Last week, Air France pilots began what was meant to be a one-week strike over cost cuts and plans for the company's Transavia unit. By Saturday, the pilots voted to extend the strike until September 26, with more than four-fifths of the 74 percent of pilots who took part in the ballot agreeing to pursue the industrial action beyond the current deadline of Monday. 

According to Reuters, Jean-Louis Barber, head of the Air France section of the SNPL, said that the strike may go beyond September 26. Barber reportedly called for a meeting with French Prime Minister Manuel Valls to help resolve the conflict with management.

Earlier this morning, the management of Air France-KLM offered to labor unions to suspend its plan to create bases outside France for its budget carrier Transavia, according to the Wall Street Journal quoting French daily Le Monde. Air France-KLM Chief Executive Alexandre de Juniac told the paper that he had proposed fast-tracking the expansion of Transavia France, increasing its fleet to 37 planes from 14, while freezing plans to create Transavia Europe for three months. The union rejected the proposal.

As of Sunday, Air France expected to operate 41 percent of its flights on Monday, September 22, given an estimated 65 percent of pilots planning to strike. Ticketed passengers can check on to see if their flight is operating before going to the airport. The flights displayed as maintained for September 22 will operate. For flights slated to depart by September 26, passengers can postpone or change their tickets for no cost. 


Last week, Lufthansa and its and its flight attendants’ union UFO reached an agreement on growth and the safeguarding of existing jobs on Lufthansa routes with a high proportion of leisure travelers. Lufthansa had previously announced its intention to continue operating as many as 14 A340-300 aircraft, subject to the condition that cost reductions of 20 percent can be achieved with all stakeholders. The UFO agreed with these cost cuts for cabin staff. 

The concept entails having no First Class and just 18 Business Class seats, making it possible to reduce the number of flight attendants on these flights while maintaining the standard of service. In addition there will be a new position for a purser who will be involved in the service routines on all A340-300 flights. This agreement also applies to the Airbus A340-300’s successor models in Lufthansa’s long-haul fleet. “This accord will enable us to fly competitively again and achieve growth, even on particularly price-sensitive routes with a high proportion of leisure travelers,” Bettina Volkens, Chief Officer Corporate Human Resources and Legal Affairs, Deutsche Lufthansa AG, said in a statement.

The collective bargaining partners also agreed on an outline for creating new, low-cost platforms within the Lufthansa Group under the Wings umbrella. Initially, they intend to focus on this segment on the basis of comparative studies and take account of the market environment.