Cabin crew strike forces Air France to cancel 200 flights
Air France cancelled 20 percent of its scheduled flights Saturday due to a strike by cabin crew expected to last five days, including a major national holiday.
Some 200 out of 1,000 scheduled flights were cancelled, a company spokeswoman told AFP, after two of three unions representing flight attendants called the action to protest plans to reduce the number of crew on each flight.
In a statement published on its website, Air France said that "its customers are being held hostage by a five-day strike for which there is no reason."
The fact that one of the three leading unions decided to withdraw its strike call shows that the company offered reasonable concessions to the workers' demands, the statement further said.
"The management of Air France negotiated night and day for 10 days and responded favourably to 90% of the demands of the flight attendants' unions", it continued.
While the company will try to ensure service continues "significant uncertainty remains regarding the level of participation in the strike by cabin crews, who are not required to notify the company of their intentions," according to the statement.
The carrier said delays and some last minute cancellations should be expected, but announced that it will operate 80 percent of flights on Sunday as well.
Philippe Sportes of the UNSA union told AFP adherence to the strike call was strong, while Didier Foussat of the FO union said the action will show its true strength from Sunday.
The uncertainty provoked outrage from some who had hoped to travel during France's Toussaint -- All Saints' -- holiday week.
"It's a nightmare. We have been waiting since 7:00 am (0500 GMT). Our plane is gone. We weren't allowed to board because Air France gave preference to families," said 39-year-old Franck Pivert at Paris' Orly airport.
The labour dispute comes after Air France-KLM reported a first quarter net loss of 197 million euros ($283 million) and warned that the outlook was uncertain for the rest of the year.
© 2011 AFP