Air France Expected To Announce Thousands Of Job Cuts

As Air France management meets with union representatives in Paris on Friday, we expect to soon know the details of the carrier’s redundancy plans. Earlier information places the number of looming job cuts from the French national airline somewhere around 7,500, or 15% of the workforce.

Air France Expected To Announce Thousands Of Job Cuts
Labour representatives met with Air France management today to discuss redundancy plans. Photo: Air France

Air France management met Friday with labor unions in Paris. While the exact details of the meeting are yet to be disclosed, it is understood by Reuters it was to explain the airline’s redundancy plans. These are believed to affect some 15% of employees, including pilots, cabin crew, and ground staff.

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Half of the layoffs voluntary or retirements

The French Government has called upon its flag-carrier, of which it owns a 14% share, to avoid mandatory layoffs. However, Air France is reportedly gearing up to announce around 7,500 job cuts. It may succeed in part in the government’s request. At least half of the redundancy is expected to be accomplished through voluntary departures and retirement plans.

The majority of the layoffs will come from Air France proper, but a little over 1,000 jobs will be cut from subsidiary Air France HOP!.  Formerly branded merely HOP!, it is a regional carrier based in Nantes. Under pre-pandemic circumstances, it operated a mixed fleet of 56 Bombardier and Embraer aircraft.

As the meeting between management and unions was still ongoing at the time of publication, Air France declined a request for comment at this stage.

Air France Hop! Ljubljana Slovenia Paris Embraer
Just over 1,000 jobs will go from regional subsidiary HOP! Photo: Getty Images

Small group of protesters

Not everyone is taking the layoffs, voluntary or not, lying down. In true French fashion, a small group of around 100 union members and employees picketed outside the carrier’s base at Paris’ Roissy airport. Criticism was raised that as the airline has accepted a substantial state-aid rescue package, there should be no job cuts at all.

According to the New York Times, a small group of demonstrators also gathered in Nantes to protest the imminent redundancies at Air France HOP!.

Job cuts across the European board

Air France is late in joining the corona job-cuts announcement club. British Airways has said that it needs to let about 30% of its workforce, which is 12,000 staff, go. easyJet is looking at 4,500 jobs cut, amounting to the same percentage of workforce as BA.

Rivals Lufthansa first announced it would need to ax the equivalent of 22,000 full-time positions or 16% of staff. However, following negotiations about ten days ago, at least the airline’s cabin crew will be safe from layoffs until 2023.

Just last week, plane manufacturer Airbus also stated its intent to cut around 15,000 mostly European jobs, about a third of which are in France. 

KLM waiting
Air France partner carrier KLM is also expected to announce job cuts. Photo: KLM

Partners in aid

Partner airline KLM will also need to implement job cuts as part of the restructuring plan requested by the Dutch Government as conditional to its €3.4 billion ($3.8 billion) in state-guaranteed funding agreed upon a week ago. 

Air France has itself been granted €7 billion ($7.87 billion) in aid to help it survive the pandemic.

Unfortunately, we have not yet begun to see the long term implications on travel from the economic fallout of the pandemic. Hopefully, this first round of job cuts, massive though they may be, will be enough, and those who are forced to let go of their employment involuntarily will soon again be rehired.