Air France–KLM have had quite the year. The airline group has had its shares plunge nearly 40% so far in 2018, mainly due to the impact of employee strikes over working conditions and pay.
Earlier this year, continuous strike action prompted the country’s economy minister Bruno Le Maire to threaten that Air France “could disappear” if the disputes were not settled.
Le Maire furthered his warning by reaffirming that, despite the French state owning 14.3% of the Air France-KLM group, the loss-making airline “would not be bailed out.” As an airline group, Air France-KLM reported a net loss of €269m for the first quarter of this year alone. In May, Air France-KLM’s Chief Executive quit over the crisis.
Now, Air France-KLM’s new Chief Executive Benjamin Smith has said the French state is indeed prepared to sell its 14% stake in the airline, as previously warned by the economy minister. Smith told the Financial Times that there were “a lot of other areas that the government needs to spend its money on.”
If the French government decide to sell its share in Air France, the impact will be significant. The French government has the biggest individual stake in Air France–KLM with 14%, while Delta Airlines and China Eastern Airlines each hold 8.8%. A new owner of the 14% stake could influence some change at the French carrier, but for now – the ‘crisis’ at the carrier continues…