LONDON – Air France signed a new pay deal with the trade unions last week, bringing to a close what has been a tremendously disruptive period for the carrier.

Due to strikes occurring over pay and working conditions, the carrier had to assign over €300 million to canceled flights and customer compensation.

The strikes also resulted in former CEO Jean-Marc Janaillac having to step down due to unsuccessful negotiations with the unions.

Janaillac resigned after failing to get staff on board with a new proposed pay deal. Almost 55% of the airline’s staff rejected the proposed deal, forcing the airline’s CEO to step away from a lengthy battle with the unions.

“I accept the consequences of this vote and will tender my resignation to the boards of Air France and Air France-KLM in coming days”, Janaillac said at the time.

His successor, former Air Canada President, Benjamin Smith, has been able to remove the deadlock between the airline and the unions.

The new deal grants workers a 2% pay rise, which has been backdated to the start of this year followed by a further 2% rise from January 1, 2019.

Smith commented on this new deal, thanking the unions for trusting him, especially after he has only been in the position for a few months.

“I would like to thank everyone involved at Air France for the quality of our discussions over the past few weeks, and for the trust that has prevailed throughout,”

Five of the seven unions representing the group approved the pay deal. 

However, SNPL, the carrier’s largest pilots union, was not among the signatories, which could still provide further issues for the carrier.

SNPL did not sign because the deal remained “ambiguous” on the point that the second 2% rise would not be counted towards 2019 pay awards.

Air France subsequently responded to this by saying that the next annual pay talks in a years time will be “based on the global economic environment, the present situation of the Air France-KLM group and the company’s economic performance.”

It seems, for now, that Smith has been able to reduce tensions. However, he still has a lot of work to do if he is going to get SNPL on his side.

Air France pilots are pressing their own demands for supplementary pay increases, in which Smith still has to address.

It will be interesting to see what else Smith can do to ease tensions even further.

But for now, it is a good start not just for him in his tenure as new CEO, but also for the airline to move on from what has been a turbulent period in its lifespan.