TEHRAN, Young Journalists Club (YJC) -The next chief executive of Air-France-KLM (AIRF.PA) must not be beholden to external interests, said a senior French pilot on the group’s board of directors, criticizing the possible choice of Air Canada’s chief operating officer as preferred candidate.
Le Monde this week reported that Air France-KLM’s nominations committee had picked Canadian Benjamin Smith as its top candidate to head the airline 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. Air Canada (AC.TO) has made no comment.
“It might be useful to say what Air France does not need: enough with candidates who are ambassadors for external interests,” Paul Farges, a board director representing employee shareholders, wrote in Sunday’s Journal du Dimanche newspaper.
Farges’ comments highlight the opposition among Air France 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 leading aviation player.
Senior French officials say President Emmanuel Macron 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 economy.
Referring to the potential pick of a North American boss, Farges wrote: “Would France not be renouncing its air sovereignty at a time each country is bitterly defending the economic interests of its companies?”