The second in command at Air Canada, Benjamin Smith, was chosen by the Air France-KLM nomination committee to succeed Jean-Marc Janaillac as the head of the Franco-Dutch group. But the main pilot union at Air France, SNPL, does not want this candidature.

The research was extended to international profiles after the publication of the airline’s financial results in July 2018. The change was pushed by Delta Air Lines and China Eastern, which are among Air France-KLM shareholders (each holding a stake of 8.80%). The decision is reportedly backed by the Dutch side of the company.

Benjamin Smith, currently Chief Operating Officer at national carrier Air Canada, would become general manager of the group with a non-executive president at his side, said Le Monde on August 8, 2018, quoting "several sources ". Until now, the position had only been held by French executives.

However the choice was criticized by the Syndicat National des Pilotes de Ligne (SNPL), the main pilot union at Air France. Its president, Philippe Evain, was quoted by Le Monde saying that Benjamin Smith was the “candidate of the statu quo”. In a tweet, he voiced his concern saying that this nomination would “keep in place the people that already failed.”

The new head of Air France-KLM should take office in September, according to an internal letter sent by Anne-Marie Couderc, acting president since May 2018.

On April 16, 2018, a draft wage agreement was presented to the different unions of the company (pilots, cabin crew and ground personnel). It offered a 7% salary increase spread over the next four years, starting with a 2% increase in 2018. After nine days of strike in his company, Jean-Marc Janaillac announced that he would “accept the consequences” if the agreement was refused after the 15 days consultation.

Unions have been asking for a 6% wage increase following a profitable year in 2017. Since the beginning of the year, strikes costed the company more than €300 million