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Air France to cut 7,500 jobs after losing €15m a day during worst period of coronavirus pandemic

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France’s flagship airline announced it will cut 7,500 jobs after the majority of its flights were grounded during Covid-19.

Air France and regional subsidiary Hop held talks at its headquarters near Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport on Friday as activists from multiple unions protested outside.

The campaigners were particularly angry that the French government did not require Air France to protect jobs when it won seven billion euros in state bailout funds in May.

Workers warned that the job cuts will ripple across the French economy, and said bailout funds should be used to rebuild the company instead of pushing people into unemployment.

It news comes as airlines around the world are forecast to lose 84 billion US dollars this year, with revenue halved.

Air France unionists demonstrate at the company’s offices near Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport (AFP via Getty Images)

After a day of talks with personnel representatives, company management announced on Friday night that it will cut about 6,500 of 41,000 jobs at Air France and 1,000 of the 2,400 jobs at Hop by 2022.

The company said most of the losses will come through not replacing retiring and departing workers, and that it would encourage voluntary departures and early retirements before imposing layoffs.

The coronavirus pandemic has cast a dark dark shadow over the aviation industry. Some have filed for bankruptcy or sought bailouts to survive the near-shutdown in their activity, and officials predict it will take years for airlines to recover.

Airline staff members and unionists of the French regional low cost airline, branch of Air France, HOP! demonstrate (AFP via Getty Images)

“It’s too easy to take Covid-19 as an excuse,” said Julien Lemarie, a 35-year-old Hop mechanic demonstrating at the airport.

“The scale of this plan… it’s enormous, it’s an absolute sledgehammer blow.”

Air France said its traffic sank 95 per cent over the worst three months of the coronavirus pandemic and it was losing 15 million euros a day — and that it does not expect to recover until 2024.

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The airline argued that the state bailout would allow it to withstand the short-term crisis and help it focus on changing its domestic business model and becoming more environmentally responsible.

The seven billion euros in state aid for Air France is in the form of loans and loan guarantees and part of a broader 15 billion euro rescue plan from the government for the aviation sector.

The Air France meetings come days after European aircraft manufacturer Airbus, based in France, said that it must eliminate 15,000 jobs to safeguard its future.

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