Airline Air France-KLM pilots began a week long strike at the French arm of the business over company plans to expand its low cost subsidiary Transavia, cancelling more than half of its due flights on Monday.

Pilots say the strike will take place from September 15-September 22. The longest strike for the company since 1998.

Unions fear that expanding Air France's low-cost operation Transavia will lead to "jobs being outsourced" and "social dumping" with pilots being employed on local contracts.

New competition from low cost rivals and fast-growing long-haul carriers in the Gulf has prompted Europe's legacy carriers to speed up restructuring measures and tweak their business models.

Air France has warned that 60 percent of its flights are likely to be cancelled on Tuesday if the strikes continue.

The strike sent the companies shares down almost four percent, while Air France Chief Executive Frederic Gagey said the strike would cost the airline between 13 and 19 million dollars a day.

The CEO said the positions of French pilots had hardened during weekend talks and expressed concerns about the strike's financial impact as well as the defection of previously loyal passengers to competing airlines.

"It is as though we had talked for 20 hours for nothing," he said at a news conference

Passengers stranded at French airports were outraged at the outcome of the strikes, with many missing their connecting flights aswell as their jobs.

At Paris's main Charles De Gaulle airport, a total of 212 Air France flights were cancelled on Monday out of some 500.

Air France said it had sent 65,000 text messages to alert passengers affected by the strike called by its main pilots' union SNPL, and deployed some 7,000 extra workers to help stranded customers.

Passengers whose flights are cancelled will be fully reimbursed while the compensation for delayed flights will range between 250 to 600 euros. 

Unions warned the transport situation would be even worse on Tuesday and Wednesday as the pilots who did decide to work on Monday would have to take their legally stipulated rest.

 

 

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies