The French arm of the Air France-KLM Group has named its new CEO as Anne Rigail. A longstanding member of the Air France senior management, Anne will be the first woman CEO of the airline. In fact, she’ll be the first female CEO of any major global airline ever.
Since the resignation of the previous CEO, Franck Terner, in September, Benjamin Smith has been assuming the role of both CEO of the Air France-KLM group, and acting CEO of Air France. He commented that he was ‘delighted’ at the appointment of Rigail, saying she has always paid particular attention to employees and puts the customer at the heart of everything she does.
“With the support and commitment of every single employee, I am confident we can rise to the challenges for Air France today, ensuring service excellence to all our customers. I have complete faith that Anne will succeed in transforming Air France. Together with Pieter Elbers, President and CEO of KLM, the Air France-KLM Group is taking an important step in its reorganisation to reconquer its market position.” Said Smith.
Speaking after the announcement, the chair of the Air France-KLM board of directors, Anne-Marie Couderc, commented:
“I would like to thank Benjamin Smith for the outstanding work he has accomplished during his time as acting CEO Air France. Under his leadership, our airline has rapidly taken decisive steps, renewing constructive social dialogue, and proposing a new executive governance structure as seen with the arrival of Anne Rigail. I wish Anne every success in her new position, for the benefit of both Air France and the Air France-KLM Group. I am very pleased that she has accepted this very exciting new challenge.”
Anne Rigail will assume her responsibility as CEO pretty swiftly, taking up the reins on 17th December. Ben Smith will continue as CEO of the parent group, Air France-KLM, but will hand over control of the Air France arm of the business to Rigail.
Who is Anne Rigail?
Not only is Anne Rigail going to be the first female CEO of Air France, she’s also a true industry old hand, having worked in aviation for over two decades.
She started out in management in 1996, when she was head of Air France customer service at Orly Airport in Paris. Three years later, she became Director of passenger and baggage connections at the other Paris Airport, Charles De Gaulle.
She stayed in this role for six years, before moving up to become head of the Charles De Gaulle operations control centre. In 2009, she was Vice President of ground operations at the same airport, and in 2013, she became Executive Vice President of inflight service for the airline.
Just last year she was appointed EVP for customers for the whole of Air France, so the step up to CEO is a natural progression for this longstanding Air France pro.
A year of changes for Air France
We are fully anticipating an exciting year ahead for Air France, and for the Air France KLM Group as a whole. Already they are in talks about scrapping their budget airline arm, Joon, as well as planning to cut back on their fleet of A380’s by up to 50%.
Air France has struggled during the course of 2018 with numerous strikes by pilots and crew, leading to an 81% loss of revenue in the first quarter. The French government has mooted a sale of their 14% share in the Air France-KLM, but that hasn’t deterred Smith from pushing forward with plans to close the gaps between the two airlines in the group.
Without doubt, 2019 will be a momentous year for Air France-KLM as a whole. We look forward to seeing positive changes from the group as the new year gets underway.