Air France-KLM: a triumvirate to run strike-hit company after boss resigns

Air France-KLM installed a triumvirate of executives led by its current finance boss to stabilise the strike-hit airline and uphold its existing strategy during the search for a permanent leader, following a standoff over staff pay.

Tuesday’s move is designed to fill a gap left by the abrupt departure of chief executive Jean-Marc Janaillac after staff earlier this month rejected a pay proposal aimed at ending a series of strikes that have resulted in heavy losses.
In a statement ahead of an annual shareholder meeting, Air France-KLM said the new three-person executive committee would include group Finance Director Frederic Gagey, who would take on the role of Chief Executive, and the existing heads of the two national brands that merged in 2004: Air France and KLM.
It also named Anne-Marie Couderc, an existing board member with experience in French politics and the magazine publishing industry, as non-executive chairwoman.
“This transitional governance structure is established for the shortest-possible period required to effectively complete the succession process for the roles vacated by Jean-Marc Janaillac,” the company said in a statement.
The interim leadership of Europe’s second-largest network carrier by revenue will face French unions emboldened by the exit of Janaillac, who announced his resignation on May 4 after putting his job on the line as French staff voted on pay.
Fifteen days of strikes this year have cost the group some 400 million euros ($479 million).
In a sign that the board is ready to hold the line over the labour dispute at Air France, the statement said the French subsidiary’s chief executive, Franck Terner, would not have a mandate to take any decisions that would jeopardize the growth strategy already approved by the board.
“The board is aware of the difficulties currently being traversed by Air France and requested to be kept regularly informed of the company’s labour situation,” it said.
Terner and KLM counterpart Pieter Elbers will remain in their posts and sit inside the top triumvirate alongside Gagey.