Jean-Marc Janaillac, resigned in May as group chief executive and chairman as well as chairman of the Air France unit after losing a fight over pay with Air France staff. The search for a new CEO has been under way while the government of Franch has gotten involved.
While no one has been appointed as of late July, there is some talk that Catherine Guillouard is a viable candidate. Her experience is deep at Air Franch, and she is a Member of the Board of Directors Airbus SE, Member of the Board of Directors of Engie and Chief Executive Officer of RATP, a transport company. Recently Air France-KLM named board member Anne-Marie Couderc 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.
As the proces moves forward, there is possible consideration of a non-French CEO. By tradition, The Air France-KLM group has been led by French chief executives since its formation in 2004, from French demands, its largest shareholder and most influencial over the group’s board.
President of France, Macron, desires to create pan-European companies that can withstand globalization, even if that means placing control of a national asset in foreign hands and complicating negotiations with Air France unions. Macron’s has told the Franco-Dutch airline group its very survival is at stake if it fails to become more competitive and undergo the painful reforms completed by carriers such as British Airways and Lufthansaß as they battle low-cost carriers which are springing up in Europe as international travel increases.
The interim leadership of Europe’s second-largest network carrier by revenue will face French unions emboldened by the exit of Janaillac, resigned in frustration after putting his job on the line as French staff voted on pay. This is similar to Alitalia and its unions issues but Alitalia is in bankruptcy and governed by a board during this process.
But unlike Alitalia, the French government, has said it will not bail out Air France – where a protracted dispute between management and unions over pay has resulted in 15 days of walkouts this year, costing the group $479 million.
In the meantime, business goes on. Air France, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, China Southern Airlines and Xiamen Airlines have today announced in Amsterdam the merger of their existing joint venture agreements. The aim is to create even stronger links between the partners and offer customers smoother, seamless travel solutions.
Delta Air Lines and China Eastern Airlines, which both hold 8.8 percent stakes in Air France-KLM, decline to comment.