Air France launches low-cost airline in fight to stay "competitive"

Rebecca Smith
Watch out easyJet and co?
Watch out easyJet and co? (Source: Getty)

Low-cost airlines are still on the rise.

Not only did Frankfurt airport recently open its doors to Ryanair, after holding out as the only major European airport to stick to "legacy" airlines beforehand, now Air France is setting up a low-cost flying unit for long-haul routes.

Air France's new boss Jean-Marc Janaillac unveiled the plan, saying the company was "battling on all fronts" to win back customers from Gulf carriers. In an effort to compete with lower-cost rivals, its pilots and cabin crew will be employed differently to the main company.

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"The status quo is not an option. We must launch a new dynamic to return to a leadership position in our markets," he said.

Air France plans for its new airline to have 10 long-haul planes by 2020. The company said it would "constitute the group's response to the Gulf State airlines which are developing at low production costs".

In October, it was revealed that Frédéric Gagey, head of Air France, would be replaced this month in a management shake-up to try and improve the fraught relationship between the Paris-based airline and its trade unions. Gagey had to flee a staff meeting about job cuts last year when it turned violent.

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He will move to finance director at parent firm Air France-KLM.

But the creation of the firm within Air France will also have pilots and cabin crew have less generous contracts compared to those at the French carrier's main business, to improve its efficiency. Several unions with members at the airline have already expressed hostility towards the plans.

The SNPNC cabin crew union said it was concerned that the new airline's staff would not have the same work benefits and it could end up being "low cost" for its workers.

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