Far-reaching strike threatens to cost Air France dear

30th October 2007, Comments 0 comments

30 October 2007, PARIS (AFP) - The strike by air stewards risks costing Air France a high price -- with the airline confronted not only by angry passengers left stranded on the tarmac, but also the demands for financial compensation from tour operators who had to bail out their customers.

30 October 2007

PARIS (AFP) - The strike by air stewards risks costing Air France a high price -- with the airline confronted not only by angry passengers left stranded on the tarmac, but also the demands for financial compensation from tour operators who had to bail out their customers.

The exasperated passengers stuck in airports, the others bussed to Frankfurt or Brussels in the hope of catching another flight, the battle for hotel rooms in Paris: these factors made it a crisis weekend and very  difficult to bear for travel agents.

The National Union of Travel Agents (SNAV) is now demanding financial compensation from Air France for the damages suffered by its clients and has invited members to compile an inventory of their losses.

The cost of the strike will have been "significant", admitted an Air France spokeswoman, but a final figure won't be known for "one or two months."

"In order to count the costs, it will first be necessary to factor in the lack of revenues due to reimbursement" of tickets, she added.

Under the tourism code, the vendor of an annulled trip is legally responsible to the customer and remains so until the "satisfactory execution" of the contract. But there is nothing to stop them in turn taking action against the defaulting partner, in this case Air France.

Some tour operators have already begun to tot up their figures. The chief executive officer of Voyageurs du Monde, Jean-Francois Rial, calculates his travel agency has lost around 350,000 euros (500,000 dollars) "of which at least half must be made up by Air France."

Almost as much again, he counts the expense of cancelling down-payments at holiday resorts (hotels, internal flights, car hire), the reimbursement of customers who didn't get a successful replacement holiday and the cost of lodging passengers waiting for delayed flights.

"Our priority is to give our customers their holiday, then we will add up the bill and give it to Air France, who will have to pay us back down to the final centime" said the CEO of Asia, Jean-Paul Chantraine. He estimates his damages at "several dozen million euros."

For Marsans France, about 50 of whose customers suffered in the strike, the cost is put at "between 10,000 and 20,000 euros" by its CEO Bruno Gallois.

"American hotels have nothing to do with a strike at Air France and bill us for 100% of the cost from the first night of a cancelled booking," complained Michel-Yves Labbe, the CEO of Directours.

The biggest client of Air France, Vacances Transat was affected in its Mexico and the Dominican Republic destinations and suffered losses of around 40,000 to 60,000 euros, according to its director general Patrice Caradec.

"The tourist was taken hostage" during a conflict "which hurt the image of our country and of Air France -- who were clearly surprised at the size of the strike," said Georges Colson, the chairman of SNAV.

But no tour operator can afford to remain angry with a commercial partner as powerful as Air France. The search for an amicable solution begins Tuesday morning at a long-planned meeting of the 'Air Council' organised by SNAV.

AFP

Subject: French news

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