Last updated: 02:45 PM ET, Wed June 22 2016

Air France Pilots Cancel Planned Strike

Airlines & Airports | Rich Thomaselli | June 22, 2016

Air France Pilots Cancel Planned Strike

Photo courtesy of Air France

Air France averted another crisis on Tuesday that would have cost the carrier tens of millions of dollars – not to mention the goodwill of tens of thousands of European soccer fans.

Air France's pilot unions voted to cancel a four-day strike scheduled for later this week after reaching an agreement with the airline over a plan to cut staff and reduce salaries, union officials told Reuters News Service.

An Air France spokeswoman said incoming Chief Executive Jean-Marc Janaillac agreed to suspend the cost-cutting plan, and the union agreed not to strike on June 24-27 as originally planned.

That would have been disastrous for the airline. Not only is it a weekend, but it is the quarterfinals for the UEFA Championship, arguably the most important soccer tournament in the world aside from the quadrennial World Cup.

Those dates the pilots would have walked out coincide with the Round of 16 in the tournament, with countries including host France, Italy, Spain, Wales, Germany, England, Switzerland, and Poland having already qualified and promising to bring thousands of more fans into France.

READ MORE: Can Europe Stop Its Frequent Airline Strikes?

The pilots union went out on strike earlier this month, from June 11-14, just as the UEFA tournament began. But the two sides differed on how severe it was, with the union saying 70 percent of its members participated in the walkout and Air France saying only a limited number of pilots didn’t report to work. The airline added that it only had to cancel 20-30 percent of its flights during that timespan.

Still, Air France admitted it lost 40 million euros ($45 million USD) from June 11-14 because of the strike.

Whether this is a goodwill gesture on Janaillac’s part or merely a stop-gap measure remains to be seen. France has been beset by labor issues across all spectrums, not just travel, but with the tournament stretching all the way to its July 10 championship game, the airline pilots union has a formidable card to use as leverage in staging another potential walkout.


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