MADRID – Shares in Air France-KLM trade lower on Friday after the airline named Air Canada executive Benjamin Smith as its new chief executive, despite strong resistance from unions.
A group of nine French unions issued a statement on Thursday opposing the appointment of a non-French national to the post, and accusing the board of not having the company’s interests at heart.
Earlier this week the head of the SNPL pilots union Philippe Evain told French newspaper Le Parisien that there would be further strikes if management didn’t restart pay negotiations.
The new CEO will also have to handle discontent among KLM pilots, who are pushing for better working conditions and for the company to hire more pilots.
Dutch union VNV said Friday that it will “take action” to put KLM’s management under pressure after rejecting an offer made by the company on Thursday night.
At 1116 GMT, shares in Air France-KLM were trading 4.6 percent lower at 8.63 euros, having earlier dropped more than 5 percent.
The airline’s share price has fallen 35 percent this year, while second-quarter profit dropped more than 80 percent, due largely to costs related to multiple strikes.
Analysts at French brokerage Aurel BGC compared the task awaiting Smith to the 12 labors of Hercules.
He will have to soothe relations between management and staff, develop the Transavia brand, potentially launch a new low-cost carrier and modernize an aging fleet, the analysts said.