Jean-Cyril Spinetta is to stand down as ceo of both Air France KLM and Air France on January 1, 2009.
But he will stay on as chairman of both companies.
Pierre-Henri Gourgeon, deputy ceo of AF KLM and chief operating officer of Air France will take over as ceo of both groups when Mr Spinetta steps aside.
Mr Spinetta, who will be 65 next month, said: ”After eleven years as Chief Executive of Air France, and then Air France-KLM, I felt it necessary to propose an internal solution that would guarantee continuity of governance, in view of the difficult economic climate facing us.
”This way we will protect the Group”s interests, while abiding by the principles which have underpinned its constitution and will remain relevant going forward.”
Mr Spinetta took over as ceo of Air France in 1999 when the airline”s annual turnover was ”8.97bn and its net income ”280m.
During his tenure, Air France signed its first agreement with Delta Air Lines in 1999, presided over the merger with KLM in 2003 and the privatisation of AF in 2004.
After the merger which made AF KLM the largest airline in the world in terms of revenue, Mr Spinetta became chairman and ceo of both the new carrier and AF.
Last year Mr Spinetta signed a far reaching agreement with Delta on transatlantic services.
This year AF KLM said its turnover was ”21.1bn, operating profits a record ”1.41bn and net profits ”748m.
Mr Gourgeon, 62, was appointed president and chief operating officer of AF in 1998.
He became deputy ceo of AF KLM in 2004.
He is also vice chairman and a director of the IT travel and GDS company Amadeus.