Air France problems

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  • AnthonyDunn

    @christopheL – 14/10/2015 22:24 BST

    Bearing in mind that the proportionate coverage of BA (and other British carriers) to AF on BT is somewhere in the region of 95:1, one could make a far more convincing case for saying that the site represents “British bashing” – except that those of us who are British consider this to be fair comment. As you may have noticed, this has provoked some very lively discussions over the past few years!

    My (in your eyes) “French bashing” comments are not made because the objects of said criticisms are French but because the objects of said criticisms are entirely deserving of criticism in their own right. You might have noticed that some of us direct our observations across a range of borders and not solely to the other side of “the sleeve”.


    @canucklad – 15/10/2015 09:49 BST

    Good Morning! I was not trying to offend ChristopheL and am sure he will take my comments as a bit tongue in cheek, but the recent displays by French Unions such as CGT, are disgusting. If AF was a profit generating company, then yes CGT might have reason to behave the way they do, but AF isn’t, it rarely has posted profits since going partially private, and most likely never did when 100% owned by the government as it wasn’t supposed to, it was to represent France in the far corners of the globe.

    The merger between KL and AF was by mutual agreement. It is not as if mighty AF took over KL. At the time, KLM was indeed looking for a partner, not because they had any financial problems but because they saw the consolidation happening in the industry and didn’t want to be left on their own. They balked at the idea of a BA takeover, as that was not for them a solution, they didn’t want to be taken over. AF at the time served their purposes, yes, but things change. I know many fellow Dutch citizens who never thought the two mindsets would gel, and they haven’t. The Dutch may love to vacation in France, but we certainly do not understand their work ethic (or lack there of).

    In The merger, the French Government had to reduce their share in AF from over 44% down initially by half, and have had to continue to divest, although they are still the largest shareholder in the group with over 15%. For sure, the EU federalists as you put it would be annoyed by any divorce, but not sure that would matter as the two operate quite separately, and have two very separate and distinct identities.


    Various news yesterday, urging the Dutch Government to take a stake of Euro 400 Million in AF/KLM to preserve their rights and influence in the Company. Currently it was reported French Government had 20% (I thought it about 17%). Leading Dutch Economists are advising that The Dutch Government do the same to have influence, and secure the future of KLM. These articles were in Abu Dhabi Press (I was in AUH), and on line, and Bloomberg reported!

    With all due respect, if KLM were not to have had financial input, they would have closed down. “KLM would have disappeared” one senior Crew Director told me.This came from Staff meetings at KLM at the time and people who were there, prior to the merger. For a long time after and even now, you talk to KLM staff at many levels, and they remain sad, and regretful of the merger. Ask any of the staff who have been there through this period, they will all tell you the same, and i know a few.

    The Captain of a KLM 747 returning from Hong Kong a few weeks ago, I talked to for about 20 mins at the back of the upstairs cabin. As i mentioned before, the KLM pilots are angry and embarrassed by the behaviour of AF Pilots, where-as they have changed roles, worked free hours, to support and keep KLM going. KLM IS profitable, AF Drags them down.

    We would all like to see KLM have their account reported separately from AF, show who does what and where responsibility falls. The brand and Dutch-ness value is highly held, and their “KLM Family”, remains utmost in their minds, as indeed they as employees have shares also.

    The arrest on criminal charges of Assault, are quite correct, as said before, everyone has the right to protest, advocate their position, and i am in favour of Union representation. We do not need to return to The Victorian era by abolishing or restricting this. No one has the right to attack anyone in they way they did, and they rightly should face the Criminal Justice system and its consequences, and carry the Criminal record with them in the future. No matter where or who, this behaviour is not acceptable, let alone legal.

    I too wish KLM would go alone again, but keep the brand as their employees have fought for over many years. They certainly are nothing remotely like KLM. The AF side also manage Flying Blue, KLM do not, and it has got worse as a result over 10 years. Customer relations via AF compared to KLM is completely different. KLM call you, refer the issues to Managers, and compensation is offered in miles or MCO’s within a few days.
    You argue with AF and their staff simply do not care, and you get nothing back. Same attitudes as on board, and with the under-worked / overstaffed lazy ground staff at CDG that feel they can walk into the Lounges take a drink as they wish.
    the number of 1/4 or Half empty loads onl AF flights running around is shocking. I never see this with KLM that last 1/4 had an 86.5% load factor network wide. All European flights appear full each time i fly with them.


    Hi dutchyankee
    Firstly thanks for the correcting me about the merger, and secondly I’m also sure Christophe wouldn’t take offence.

    I remember years ago reading the Holland Herald and was stunned at the then profile of the 3 featured airlines……KLM -Air France and Northwest .
    Can’t remember the exact figures, but…..
    Astonishingly AF had twice as many employees, half the fleet size and flew substantially less passengers than NW. ……The KLM ratio was in-betweenie but nowhere near as efficient as NW..

    And Marcus I tried to find more up to date figures but gave up, as I’ve got more of a KLM work ethos than an AF work ethic….. : ) ……So back to the grindstone !!


    Ok canucklad…see you in 5 lol


    Hi all,

    As Skyteam flyer, I have had a number of experiences with both AF and KLM. I preffered the latter of course, however I found AF cabin crews pleasant too.

    Taking Y into perspectives, the difference between the two carriers lay in the in-flight service model. For instance, KLM offer drink rounds a couple of times throughout the long haul journey in Y (like SQ and GA), but I never experienced such service in AF. Yes, AF has self-service bar, but so do KLM. Instead the AF crews were always in the galley chatting.

    Having said that, I do often chat with them while enjoying snacks, and they are always friendly and usually more than happy to help upon request. In fact, an alternate between the two are actually refreshing, sometimes is nice to have a chatty and cheerful KLM and sometimes is nice to have the more formal AF.

    ‘The Air France Probelm’ seems to be cultural. As you all know French Unions are very strong and sadly (or not), the governments seems to always take their side. Perhaps they do so for political reason (winning the next election), perhaps it’s just their priority, or perhaps it is for other reason, either way we cannot know for sure. But these behaviours can be unfair towards the management. Imagine how the AF managements are feeling, they must be frustrated as in their mind they want to save the company, but they face not only the union but also the French Government! While at the same time, if they failed, everyone blame them. Really sad! But also, the French Government need to understand their behaviour has a domino effect on KLM. AF KLM is no longer a French interest but also Dutch. The sooner they realised it the better. Imagine if KLM collapsed, the Dutch government will not be happy with the French! The sooner the French Government realised it the better.

    To be frank, both AF and KLM are my two fave European carriers as I always have good experiences with them. And it sadden me to see what happening to them.

    Looking it from HR perspective the two carriers merged but their mindset seems separate. Yes, they came from two different countries with 2 different working cultures, but the company main culture should not be 2. True, they should keep each other cultures, but both cultures need to be second to the AF-KLM culture. Sadly, they don’t have such AFKLM culture. Consequently, both company has a mindset of “You” – “I ” while what they should do is to get them both think as “You and I” or “We”. The problem now, their is no trust anymore between the two partners. When asked to transfer some money from Amsterdam to Paris, Amsterdam refused. Scared that Paris will waste it. I really understand KLM decision. But such action might made AF to think, if KL don’t care about us, why should we care about them? This had put “consideration for KLM” out of the mind of AF. After all both companies are run by humans and consists of humans. If I were in their HR, I would first let both AF and KL unions and Both AF and KL management talk and understand each other’s position.

    With that in mind, I don’t think de-mergeing would be good for them in the long run. I don’t think a separated AF and KLM could be as influential as they are now, especially when they are up against IAG, LHG and ME3. If demerging happen, sooner or later they have to shrink their size and be secondary players, or get married again and go through all the M&A processes all over again.

    Instead I think AF-KLM should start becoming AF&KLM. They shoukd cooperate even more closely and get both French and Dutch unions and all managements together to work things out. At the same time, the French Government should let the management managed the company themselves and, if they can’t at least do it as a respect to the Netherlands. Both AFKLM should realised that if they work together and short their houses in order, they can be stronger than IAG and LHG. But not if they work independently. Therfore, with that in mind, I don’t think it is an Air France problem but this is a AFKLM problem.

    Safe travels.


    A very interesting post Generation Y
    And your point about competing with IAG, LHG and the ME3 is valid…..Especially when consolidation seems to be the easy rescue template that airlines are using to survive, at least in the short term

    It also got me thinking about the cultural differences, the different dynamics attached to the economic running of the two companies. And the impact it has on the employees of each airline….

    Putting myself into the shoes of an AF employee, I’d be feeling a bit threatened by all this talk of redundancy, reduction in my benefits, etc etc……I’d also as a stereotypical Frenchman, display a laissez faire, verging on condescending attitude towards my KLM colleagues.
    I’d also resent this continual perceived interference from the arrogant Dutch, harping on about how good we have it in Paris……..” Je ne m’en fous ce que vous pensez des hollandaise”

    If I was in Amsterdam traipsing about Schiphol in my clogs, and watching the events in Paris on the news, I’d be saying to myself, this pertinent question………”why should I work my b*** off, when those f***s are on f******N strike again, don’t we work for the same company, yet they get everything chucked at them ? “
    And I’m afraid if I was that hard working KLM employee, my envy at their better pay and overall package benefits would finally tip me over the edge into hostile resentment of my fellow French colleagues.

    I once did a business case study on mergers and used BOAC & BEA as an example. I can’t help speculating about the modern day similarities coming to the fore in Paris and Amsterdam.
    And if AF struggle to convince their employees, the need adapt to our changing global market, then I’m afraid GenerationY, my advice to the leadership team in Amsterdam, would be to follow a medical solution……

    If your body has been diagnosed to have been invaded by cancerous cells, and you ignore the diagnosis, there will eventually (sooner rather than later) be only one sad outcome to the patient.
    The cancer needs to be eliminated before the patient can return to having a healthy and thriving future. ….


    Here here Canucklad.

    The rub is quite simple, France values Scargillism. The Government and the Unions seem hell bent on destroying AF, just as Scargillism wanted to destroy Unionism in the UK. The problem is not that they want to do it, but the fact they do not realise it is their very actions are creating the perfect storm to achieve it. Ask an AF employee what they think of Ryanair or Easyjet or Ehizz and they will likely say…….flash in the pan…will not last. Head in clouds attitude to the realitys of the 21st century. Shame, but I fear France will have to rival Greece as the basket case of Europe before they realise what they are doing.


    I can remember when BA restarted flying into Orly (some years after CDG opened) and in 1997 bought a 70 per cent share in a small French low-cost carrier called Air Liberte.

    The latter planned to operate low-cost flights to London and elsewhere.

    But in protest AF workers downed tools in a “strike against deregulation” !

    Air Liberte never succeeded. It lost lots of money, merged with other carriers and was eventually closed down.


    French bashing is to be avoided. It is unfair to mock a third world country…

    Regarding Segolene Royal’s comment, one has to keep in mind she is utterly incompetent plus she is the former wife, well in facts girlfriend albeit mother of 4, of another utterly incompetent politician, President Hollande…

    Now to the facts. Pilotes refused to work longer (after all they are only paid about EUR 200’000 per year – for the details). Since it is impossible to fire them, the rest of the airline has to suffer the consequences…


    HI Canucklad,

    Nice point there. My concern is that, the divorce of the two will only make both of the carriers weaker in going against IAG, LHG and ME3. As a result, KLM might have to scale back it’s operation and shrink down or sell itself yo foreign carrier (EY, QR, ANA, etc) or merge with another carrier.

    I understand that getting rid the cancer cells would be the best option, but unlike the analogy where cancer cells offers no benefit to the person (ok, perhaps a boost of immune system against cancer), KLM actually profit from AF cooperations.

    Assuming that KLM and AF divorce is good and both decided to continue to cooperate, sure KLM might be better off.

    But if the divorce is bad, would the cooperation still be there? Perhaps for awhile, but what next? Would the French who have been flying KLM still want to fly KLM after the divorce? Imagine a French thought “when time is hard, they turn their back on us. why should we give our money to them”. Such mentality would make KLM lost a portion or even whole France as a market. Let’s face it, as much as I love KLM, KLM cannot survive with only Dutch market as their main (majority) market. At least now they still have France, better, perhaps as we speak, they have the sympathy from the French market, and the French is preferring KLM to AF to avoid possible strikes.

    If they divorce, sooner or later both, especially KLM will need to find a partner to stay as major aviation player. Merger with IAG or LHG will be unlikely, the EU won’t allow it as both IAG and LHG are already too powerful to have KLM.

    Assuming that KLM learned from AF that merging 2 different cultures is difficult, and decided to merge with European airline that have the similar mentality to the Dutch yet, not as powerful as IAG and LHG, the only option for KLM would be SAS.

    But still the 15 millions Scandinavians are only a quarter of 60 millions French. Unless KLM is OK to be a secondary player and trim back it’s scale of operation; divorcing AF wouldn’t be wise in the long term. I especially think so because KLM is currently have the veto to transfer any money to Paris and the future of the company is (more or less) guaranteed by the French Government.

    With those 2 points (veto and guarantee), I still think the best scenarios would be to cooperate closely with AF and be patient. Although slow, Perform 2020 is working. As a person myself I don’t think, giving up a business relationship or even personal in that matters, when the going get tough is wise. It would be the easiest, but wouldn’t be nice and it also reflect something about such company’s personality and culture.

    Now that KLM employees are voicing their concern to French Unions and some of AF workers are voicing their disagreements towards the violent, I think the situation is about to get better. KLM just need to voice it’s concern, show support and be patient. Hopefully soon, AF union will soften.

    Beside, if AF is scaling their operations due to the unions, I am sure some of those routes will go to KLM via Amsterdam. Consequently AF might be the feeder for KLM, at least until a sensible agreement between the management and union can be reach. 🙂



    Having made my Flying Blue Gold or similar Flying Dutchman scheme for the last 22 yrs, 30 flights a year, mainly with KLM, they have a great respect and following now.
    Flights from South Europe, North Europe, and East Europe, are almost always full, just looking at the European network. There planes are spotless inside and out, service excellent, and very motivated dedicated crews, with excellent service, even on the LHR – AMS routes. Good sandwiches on routes of over 1.30hrs, and several services on flights longer within Europe.

    they do not have to rely on The Dutch Market, they never have. Look at the local airport links from the UK 25+ airports? Flights from Lisbon, Budapest, LHR that i mainly take are always full, and people on standby. Having said this, KLM have reduced many Aircraft capacity on the LHR route in the last 18 months. It was that each flight 14+ a day, would be various sizes of 737-7/8/9. Now they have A few Embraer 100’s each day, but probably some of the smallest being Fokker 70’s very old and unpleasant to take. These are classed as CityHopper, different service from KLM.
    Clearly they have lost a big market share on the LHR route.
    If you book, check the Aircraft you take, the proper KLM service rather than Cityhopper, and certainly business Class, is completely different!

    there was a plan, to have ALL European routes “Cityhopper style and brand” within 5 years, but that may have changed with drastic changes on The Board, and in Management of both Airlines.

    I agree with many comments above. It is time for KLM to report their own figures, and set themselves apart, especially if the Dutch Government take the shares of E400 M.
    Transavia is also profitable a 94% load factor recently, and showing more and more in Amsterdam, less 737 types of Aircraft around sadly.

    AF, still put boiling water on pre-packed “Clix” drinks machine style Nescafe powder piled up on the trolley, and little else. Half the time, they do not get round everyone, give up and leave passengers without anything.


    Having been the President of numerous French companies during the noughties, I was routinely amazed by the work practices and mentality that seemed to drive less than rational behaviour.

    It often felt that representatives of workers councils were only in it for themselves, rather than seek to improve the lot of those they had been elected to represent, and indeed getting elected in the first place was an ambition many had as, once in that position, it was nigh on impossible for the employer to take any constructive action against them.

    There were occasions though where the logic put forward by the French workers was almost impossible to challenge. Smokers would routinely go outside for a fag. The non smokers claimed they were being discriminated against, and therefore claimed the right to go outside routinely for a chat. Tricky.


    Air France executives have had unofficial talks with other airline leaders and have also spoken with consultants but the basic problem in the mentality of the workforce remains. Until such time as those who work for the company understand they are in a competitive world and old practices are no longer sustainable nothing will change.


    @Charles-P – 16/10/2015 10:22 BST

    +1 Spot On!

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