Days after two Air France executives were forced to flee a violent union demonstration shirtless, the company Friday pleaded with its customers to not let the attack reflect badly on its contested business plan.
“These violent acts were the work of isolated individuals and do not reflect the reality nor the ambition of your airline,” an email to customers, which was obtained by Bloomberg, stated. “In a highly competitive world, Air France needs to take brave steps to ensure its future as a leading airline with global ambitions.”
The demonstration and ensuing violence were in response to a decision by the company to significantly scale back operations. The company made its appeal to customers as it prepares to resume talks with union representatives.
The attack happened Monday at company headquarters in France. The crowd attacked several of the company executives forcing them to scale a fence to get to police. Though the country is known for aggressive union tactics, pictures of the executives looking scared and in shredded clothes quickly gained international attention.
The proposal to scale back operations would mean 3,000 employees could lose their jobs. The cutbacks are part of a massive restructuring plan to reduce the fleet and end unprofitable routes. It will abolish five routes and 35 weekly long-haul flights primarily in Asia and the Middle East. Union activists have adamantly opposed it.
The company argues the plan is necessary for functionality and profitability. It is in large part due to recent economic difficulties and competition from low-cost carriers. The inability to arrive at a labor agreement with pilots is also playing a role.
The attack first began when company executives were detailing the latest updates of the restructuring plan. During the meeting union activists swarmed into the room. Some of the executives attempted to flee the room resulting in the attack outside.
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