Julian Moxon/PARIS

AIR FRANCE is to cancel all its outstanding orders and options for Airbus and Boeing aircraft, and sell part of its existing fleet as part of the restructuring plan, introduced by its president, Christian Blanc. The programme, introduced in 1994, has already succeeded in reducing the carrier's losses by more than half, he says.

"Air France is alive and well. Every goal we have set ourselves for 1994 has been met," says Blanc. If the continuing drive for cost reduction is successful, he adds, the airline could be back in the market for aircraft in 1997.

In an interview with the French daily Le Monde - the first he has given since taking office in October 1993 - Blanc indicates that the first phase of restructuring of the airline is now finished. This involved 2,000 voluntary job losses, a freeze on salaries, and worker participation in running the airline, in exchange for further salary concessions. A further 2,000 job losses are planned for this year.

Blanc says that Air France will sell some of its aircraft, and reveals that a decision was taken "...a few days ago not take up our options on aircraft we had planned to buy from Airbus and Boeing". He adds that the airline has also "...cancelled the orders placed by the company at the beginning of 1990".

According to Airbus Industrie, seven A340s remain to be delivered, "...but we have not heard anything about cancellations". Up to ten Boeing aircraft are also still on order, including four 747s, and a mix of 737s and 767s. Boeing also will not comment on any cancellations. More than 30 options are believed to be involved.

Blanc says that Air France has achieved more than one quarter of the targets it set for 1 January 1997. Costs have been cut by 7% and will be slashed by a further 12% in 1995, mainly by reducing purchasing by more than Fr1 billion ($190 million). "Our losses amounted to Fr8 billion in 1993. This year, we will have lost only Fr3-3.5 billion over 15 months."

Seat-load factors have risen "very substantially", says Blanc, but yield continues to suffer, being down by 1.6% in 1994, reduced from 6.7% the previous year. Operating costs were reduced by 7%, against 1.7% in 1993. Alliance discussions with North American and Asian carriers continue, but "it is out of the question that Air France becomes an appendage to some air-transport giant because of her weakened state," says Blanc.

Source: Flight International