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Air France will operate less than half of its scheduled flights today as pilots start a week-long strike over plans to transfer jobs to its low-cost subsidiary Transavia.
The airline is urging passengers with a flight reservation between September 15 and 22 to postpone their trip or change their ticket “at no extra cost”.
Air France said that talks with unions to end the strike were “permanent and ongoing”. But added: “We prefer to be realistic rather than optimistic. For the moment, we are organising our flights on a day-to-day basis.”
The national carrier said it "expects to operate" 48 per cent of flights with 60 per cent of pilots planning to strike, after the airline announced it is aiming to transfer most of its short and medium-haul services to Transavia. A move unions claim will affect working and pay conditions.
Air France has said it would consider negotiating benefits based on seniority of pilots who agree to work for its low-cost airline.
However, it would not agree to demands that the contracts of Transavia pilots carry the same terms as those flying under Air France.
Pilots are currently paid less at Transavia than at Air France’s mainline business.
Air France’s CEO Frederic Gagey has told France Inter radio that the strike action could end up costing the airline €10 million to €15 million a day.
Last week, the airline announced it wanted to invest €1 billion in growing Transavia, which would help create 250 new pilot jobs and grow its fleet to 100 aircraft.
It said by 2017 Transavia “will rank among the leading low cost carriers in Europe”, and there are plans to move the business to a more “pan-European scale”.
In July, Air France-KLM halved its losses or the first six months of the year and posted an increase in revenue.
According to the group’s first half year results, it recorded an ‘adjusted’ operating loss of €342 million, an improvement of €344 million from six months earlier.