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Strike May Doom Low-Cost French Flights

A striking union could prevent a major international airline in France from offering more low-cost flights, the airline announced Tuesday.

The strike, which is entering its ninth day, was organized in response to a plan by Air France-KLM to create a low-cost airline called Transavia. Now with the airline taking on major costs and setbacks, chief executive Alexandre de Juniac said these plans may have to be abandoned.

According to Reuters, De Juniac told France Inter radio, “We are suspending, and if we cannot reach an agreement we will be obliged, sick at heart, to abandon the project.”

“This strike generates an operating loss of up to 20 million euros per day, plus customer compensations and the impact of the gradual recovery in traffic in the days following the return to normal operations” a press release by the airline stated.

De Juniac has commented that he is reluctant to jettison the low-cost airline completely, but Reuters reports he will postpone it.

The airline clarified in its press release that “Air France-KLM’s development on the low-cost market in Europe is both strategic and urgent for the Group’s future, given that this market is fast-expanding and our competitors have adopted particularly offensive strategies on the French market.”

The airline defends its part in the negotiation process  saying that de Juniac and his colleagues have met daily and spent over 40 hours in meetings with pilot representatives.

“Every day, they have been submitting new constructive proposals to resolve this conflict. On their part, the pilot unions have not put forward any proposal demonstrating their willingness to find a solution,” the press release continues.

Some within the French government, which owns a 16 percent stake in the airline, are more reluctant to support the strike out of fear that it will damage France’s image abroad.

“There is no sense in the strike,” Prime Minister Manuel Valls told Europe 1 Radio. “French people do not understand it.”

Jean-Louis Barber, head of the Air France division within the Syndicat National des Pilotes de Ligne union, was quoted by European CEO as saying, “As long as management does not change its philosophy and as long as Air France management will not conduct real talks in a cooperative spirit to counter low-cost (airlines), Air France pilots will be on strike.”

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