Air France-KLM board today announced that Benjamin Smith will be the new CEO of the airline and starts by the end of September.
Pilot union was already protesting this move before it was announced calling it inconceivable that the new CEO would be “American” (non-French) and threatening 15 days of more strikes.
Here’s the press release from Air France-KLM:
Here’s an excerpt from the Financial Times (access their piece here):
A joint statement by nine Air France unions earlier on Thursday suggested Mr Smith could face a hostile reception: “Regarding the candidacy of the next CEO at the head of our company, the inter-union organisation maintains that it is inconceivable that the company Air France, French since 1933, falls into the hands of a foreign leader pushed by a rival industrial group.”
The unions referenced in particular to alliance partner Delta Air Lines, which holds 8.8 per cent of AFKLM. China Eastern holds another 8.8 per cent, while the French state holds 14.3 per cent, along with outsized voting rights.
Let’s hope that Ben Smith lasts longer as the CEO of Air France-KLM than the most previous heads that have all been rather short lived. Many have said that the airline have become ungovernable with its militant unions.
Employee unions should at least give him a chance and not discount him just because he comes from North America, although not from the US as they implied.