Comment Air France a su préserver la paix sociale cet été

Contrairement à Lufthansa et British Airways, Air France n'a pas eu à annuler des milliers de vols pour cause de grève.

That Air France-KLM manages to produce, quarter after quarter, better financial results than those of Lufthansa and IAG is already unusual. But to see Lufthansa and British Airways thrown into chaos by strikes in the height of summer, while Air France is a model of social peace, is even more surprising.

Of all the big European airlines, Air France is in fact the only one that has not experienced a work stoppage in its ranks in recent weeks, excluding a three-day strike at its low-cost subsidiary Transavia, which was not the work of Air Personal. from France. Even Ryanair has not escaped this. A stability that largely explains the good behavior of the group and that results from a set of factors.

Make the summer season a success

The first is probably the feeling of responsibility of Air France employees, after having benefited from unprecedented state support in Europe. Part of this aid -around 40%- and other tax deferrals still have to be returned, which implies the urgent need to carry out the summer season, which traditionally generates the bulk of the benefits.

But this move is also due to some risky decisions made by general manager Ben Smith. Starting by maintaining a higher level of activity than competitors during the crisis, but also limiting staff reductions as much as possible and retaining key skills and aircraft purchases, with the help of taxpayers.

Air France bet before the others on the acquisition, hesitating to rehire at the beginning of the year, when the prospects for acquisitions still seemed vague. This has allowed it to cope with the rise in demand and globally avoid the pitfall of shortages, although the company is far from having recovered its optimum performance.

Special attention for pilots

Added to this voluntarism is the special attention paid to a particularly strategic category of employees: Air France pilots, without whose support any strategy is doomed to failure. In the last two years, without waiting for the end of the epidemic, Air France has hired almost 700 pilots, including 400 in 2022. This has not only fueled Transavia’s growth, but has also allowed older pilots to see their careers progress. careers and their salaries.

To this virtuous dynamic was added, for Air France long-haul pilots, a beautiful cherry: the application from this year of article 81A of the General Tax Code, which will result in significant savings. It was an old demand from the pilot unions, which ended up finding favor in the eyes of Bercy, under the joint action of the Air France management and the SNPL AF-TO.

A fiscal icing on the cake

Thanks to this device originally designed for sailors, pilots who have spent at least 20 days abroad can now reduce their tax base in variable proportions, up to 28.6%. This advantageously replaces the deduction of real expenses and recovers, depending on the case, the equivalent of a good month’s additional salary.

This may partly explain the lower sensitivity of Air France pilots to the problems of inflation and loss of purchasing power. But only in part, because this tax deduction only benefits long-haul pilots and not those in the short and medium-haul sector. The SNPL AF-TO therefore does not intend to settle for this and is already calling for the early opening of salary negotiations from the start of the school year, with the stated aim of obtaining a general increase in the salaries of Air France pilots. and Transavia up to inflation.

They are not alone, as the very popular Transavia France cabin crew strike in July demonstrates. And other categories of personnel could also enter the dance beyond the summer mobilization.

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