Anne Rigail, currently Deputy General Manager of Air France, has been appointed Chief Executive Officer of the company, replacing Franck Terner. She will be the first woman to be at the head of the French flag carrier. Rigail now needs to gear up for what can be expected to be arduous discussions between the new managing directors and Air France’s unions.

The decision of the board of directors was taken on December 12, 2018. The new CEO of Air France-KLM Group, Benjamin Smith, was holding this position as interim since his own appointment in September 2018. Anne Rigail, who worked at Air France for most of her career, was one of two potential candidates, the other one being Nathalie Stubler, current CEO of Transavia France, subsidiary of KLM. Her long experience with the airline was said to be a defining factor in her appointment. She will assume her new role from December 17, 2018.

As Managing Director, Rigail will now take over the ongoing social discussions with both pilots and cabin crew. The wage negotiations with the pilots should be easier for her, after Philippe Evain, the president of the Syndicat National des Pilotes de Ligne (SNPL), was replaced by Guillaume Gestas. The SNPL, main pilot union at Air France, was leading the strikes that costed the company more than €300 million (about $341 million).

Her discussions with the different unions should lead to the long awaited definition of a new strategy by February 2019. So far, Benjamin Smith leaned mostly towards austerity, with the announced reduction of the A380 fleet, and the existence of Joon and Hop! being questioned.

Anne Rigail (Picture credit: Air France)