LONDON – Air France-KLM has stated to local media that they are likely to appoint Air Canada’s current COO, Benjamin Smith, as the group’s new CEO on August 16.
As reported by Reuters, this appointment would bring to a close the search for a new CEO following the departure of Jean-Marc Janaillac, who voluntarily resigned after staff rejected pay offers, resulting in strikes.
Apparently, the promotion will happen this coming Thursday as it is the number-one item on the agenda for the group’s board.
Smith’s name had been widely reported across local media, with Le Monde and Liberation hinting that he might be the new AF-KL CEO.
Asked to comment on the report in Liberation, an Air France-KLM spokesman said that “The appointment process is underway and is continuing. No decision has been made.”
Who is Benjamin Smith
Smith’s career in the aviation industry started in 1990 when he joined Air Ontario, one of Jazz Aviation LP’s predecessor regional airlines, as a Customer Sales and Service agent.
Three years later, in 1993, he left the airline and opened a retail corporate travel agency, which he owned for around eight years, highlighting his leadership experience.
Smith then joined Air Canada in 2002 as the Managing Director of Tango, which was one of the airline’s attempts at a low-cost operation before becoming COO in 2007.
With Smith set to be appointed, he will have to continue with Janaillac’s failed attempt at reaching an agreement with the French syndicates.
Almost 55% of the airline’s staff rejected the proposed deal by Janaillac, forcing him to step down from the airline’s helm.
The strikes have cost Air France-KLM group around €75 million so far.
More news on the AF-KL CEO appointment will be covered by Airways in the coming days.