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After a turbulent year Air France appoints its first female CEO

Air France announced on Wednesday the appointment of Anne Rigail as Executive Director of the French airline, stating that she would take office on December 17. Rigail replaces Benjamin Smith, Chief Executive Officer of Air France-KLM, who had taken the position on an interim basis.

Rigail is the first woman to lead the French airline . Her initial role will be the establishment of dialogue between different aviation sectors, particularly with pilots, and improving service quality.

“On the proposal of Benjamin Smith, Managing Director of Air France-KLM, and with the agreement of the Air France-KLM, the Board of Directors of Air France has appointed Anne Rigail as Chief Executive Officer of Air France at a meeting on 12 December 2018,” said the carrier in a press release.

Rigail, who joined Air France 27 years ago years, was previously Deputy Executive Director of the company.

“The Air France Board of Directors has also appointed Benjamin Smith (...) as a director of Air France and confirmed Anne-Marie Couderc as President of the Air France Board of Directors”, continued the press release.

The 49-year-old leader will have the task of conducting delicate wage negotiations, particularly with the powerful pilot unions, in a context that remains tense after the spring labour dispute.

Bitter conflict
This bitter conflict, marked by 15 days of strikes at an estimated cost of €335 million, led to the sudden departure of Air France-KLM boss Jean-Marc Janaillac, followed by Managing Director Franck Terner in September and Human Resources Director Gilles Gateau in October.

The unions had demanded the departure of the last two leaders, holding them responsible for the failure of the social dialogue.

Rigail's appointment comes a few days after the election of a new team to head the SNPL Air France, the company's first pilots' union.

These staffing changes could encourage a re-launch of the dialogue, while the pilots (SNPL and SPAF unions) are calling for a specific increase in wages after the general increase granted in October to all categories of staff. But the discussions stumbled on the productivity efforts demanded by management.

Negotiations have also begun with stewards and ground staff.

(RFI with AFP)

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