14 OCT 2014: Executives from Air France and KLM alongside local industry guests and partners gathered at Toronto’s ceramic central hub aka the Gardiner Museum last week to welcome the new general manager and Air France-KLM Canada vice president Jean-Noel Rault and to celebrate two big aviation fetes.

Guests watched promotional videos showcasing the 95th birthday of KLM and the 80th anniversary of Air France and were entertained by musicians and a glowing juggling act re-inacting airline signals.

The new GM who held stints in France with Air France - his latest was as the director of the customer contact centre, web support and social media servicing in Paris - apologized for last month’s two week pilot strike which reportedly cost the company €500 million but stressed that now it’s business as usual.

“I am sorry. We are back on track. All the operations are back to normal. We are planning for the future,” he said and later added, “It took us two weeks but finally now we are ready.”

The company, he explained, is planning to hire more pilots and 1000 new employees for its low cost operations in France.

So what happened?

Rault observed that this past year the company was closing a five-year plan to bring back KLM-Air France to profitability and was revamping all the cabins and renegotiating the future with pilots to develop low cost operations in France and Europe.

“We were planning to increase presence in the local segment,” he said and explained under the previous pilot contracts the airline company was unable to offer low cost flights.

“We couldn’t fly low cost with the existing pilot contracts. That was the issue,” he said and added, “Of course we were desperate to end the strike quickly.”


Last September during those two weeks, Rault stressed the airline had 7000 staff working worldwide day and night sending three million emails and SMS over that period. “I know that’s not the kind of services you are expecting from an airline,” he said.

He told Travel Industry Today in an exclusive interview, that sending regular electronic updates to affected customers and having partners like Delta which has had a five year partnership with Air France were key in ironing out the service kinks.

“We did not face tough situations like in the past where (customers) were stranded at the airports sleeping in the terminals, it was smooth.”

The Air France-KLM future in Canada

As the battle over the skies in the airlines industry continues, expect to see more development from the French-Dutch carrier on our domestic front.

Rault told the audience since his arrival to Canada where Air France-KLM has operations in Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver, he has discovered a highly competitive market. “Toronto, it is the most competitive market for airlines,” he said.

He plans to see the Air France – KLM brand strengthen in Western Canada by actively working on its close partnerships with Delta which has a joint WestJet venture. “We do need strong partners with us.”

“If I imagine the future of Air France-KLM in the coming years we have to spend some implementation, marketing to the west and we have to have an ambitious plan. Hopefully (Air France-KLM) it will be an important position in Canada.”



Ilona Kauremszky

A regular contributor to Travel Industry Today, Ilona is a prize winning journalist whose writing pursuits have taken her around the globe.

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