PARIS: Air France-KLM passengers around the world face severe delays and cancellations when pilots begin a four-day strike Friday to protest plans
to make them work until the age of 65.
Half of all medium and long-haul flights from Paris and elsewhere will be cancelled when the strike kicks off at midnight local time (2300 GMT Thursday), the airline said.
Europe's biggest airline said it may have to cancel even more long-haul flights in the following days until the strike ends Monday at midnight (2300 GMT).
Disruptions could continue after Monday if flight attendants, who also face later retirement, join in the protest as they have threatened to do from the start of next week.
"The ball is in the government's court," said Cyril Jouan of the CFDT Air France PNC union for flight attendants. "If we get no response or a negative response we will join the pilots."
Air France-KLM chairman Jean-Cyril Spinetta denounced the strike, saying it would cost 100 million euros (125 million dollars) and that four days of massive disruption would seriously damage passengers' trust in the airline.
"With this useless strike, we are opening the door to our competitors and they will rush in," he told French radio.
The company said in a statement that it "apologizes to all passengers for this unacceptable situation."
Air France has an average of 760 flights to European destinations and 73 long-distance flights from Paris a day.
Its partner airlines Brit Air, Regional, CCM, Airliner will also be affected by the strike but less severely, an Air France spokeswoman said.
The main pilots' union in the airline, the SNPL, called the strike to protest legislation that would effectively end the current requirement for pilots to retire at 60, and flight attendants to wrap up their careers at 55.
The legislation, tacked onto a wider bill on financing social security in 2009, was adopted by France's National Assembly on November 1.
It is currently being examined by the Senate upper house of parliament. The strikers want the Senate to withdraw the plan.
The SNPL said in a statement that the legislation was a "violation of the commitment (by the French transport minister) that any change in the retirement age for pilots would be preceded by negotiation with the social partners.
6 months ago