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Next Air France-KLM boss must not surrender French interests - director

Reuters  |  PARIS 

By Richard Lough

PARIS (Reuters) - The next of Air-France-KLM must not be beholden to external interests, said a senior French pilot on the group's board of directors, criticising the possible choice of Air Canada's as preferred candidate.

this week reported that Air France-KLM's nominations committee had picked Canadian as its top candidate to the at a time the French brand, Air France, is struggling to cut costs amid union opposition.

The group has not denied Smith is a candidate, saying only that no decision has been made yet. has made no comment.

"It might be useful to say what Air does not need: enough with candidates who are ambassadors for external interests," Paul Farges, a representing employee shareholders, wrote in Sunday's Journal du Dimanche newspaper.

Farges' comments highlight the opposition among Air staff to any new chief who might ride roughshod over their demands, in particular over higher pay, and focus on cost-cutting rather than restoring the Franco-Dutch group's reputation as a

Meanwhile, Philippe Evain, of the muscular SNPL pilots' union, threatened in an interview with 15 more days of strikes if the next does not resume wage negotiations.

The French state is the biggest shareholder in with a stake of about 14 percent. and each hold 8.8 percent.


Government officials say is open to considering a non-French national to lead the group for the first time. The appointment is seen as a test of Macron's resolve for the state to take a lighter touch on the

Referring to the potential pick of a North American boss, Farges wrote: "Would not be renouncing its air sovereignty at a time each country is bitterly defending the economic interests of its companies?"

Air-France-KLM has been hunting for a since the abrupt departure in May of Jean-Marc Janaillac, who quit after pilots led a revolt against a pay offer aimed at ending costly strikes.

Aviation analysts say needs to cut costs, as its sister brand has, to keep up with leaner rivals in including and and compete with the rise of low-cost carriers and Gulf carriers.

Farges said workers were not to blame for the challenges facing the unit.

"Air France's difficulties this summer are not related to a failure of employees, but to the attrition of the fleet at a time when the growth of the market requires increasing the volume of supply and staff," he said.

An eventual vote on a new will go to the 18-strong board of directors.

(Reporting by Richard Lough; Editing by and Mark Potter)

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sun, August 12 2018. 18:52 IST