PARIS (AFP) – Striking Air France pilots dug in their heels Wednesday, rejecting government calls to go back to work and new assurances from management that low-cost operations would not threaten their jobs.
The work stoppage was set to go into a fourth day on Thursday, grounding more than half of Air France’s flights and costing the company an estimated 10-15 million euros ($13-19 million) a day.
On Thursday, the airline hopes to put on a similar number of flights – around 42 per cent of planned trips – director of operations Catherine Jude said.
Prime Minister Manuel Valls told French radio, “We have to stop this strike,” which he said was “incomprehensible” to most French people.
“It is regrettable that a single category of employee, in this case pilots, can bring air transport in the country to a standstill,” he said.
Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron agreed, saying, “We can no longer accept that the country is blocked by a few people.” But he also urged the company to make “a few concessions”.
Pilots have walked off the job in protest at the airline’s plans to expand its low-cost Transavia business in a bid to compete with cheaper rivals such as Ryanair and Easyjet.
Unions fear the company will seek to cut costs by running more low-cost Transavia flights, where pilots are paid less, at the expense of Air France operations.
Pilots are also worried that the plans will entail job losses as the company sets up bases outside of France and hires pilots locally.