CONTINUING STRIKES at French domestic carrier Air Inter are threatening the restructuring plan for the entire Air France Group.

The trouble centres on the loss of up to 660 jobs, as part of the restructuring plan under which in 1997 will be merged Air Inter's European operations, with those of Air France to create a new European airline.

The three strikes to date are estimated to have cost the airline at least Fr70 million ($14 million), and a further two days of stoppages were set for 28/29 March.

Both the presidents of Air Inter, Michel Bernard, and of Air France, Christian Blanc, insist that the changes must go through if the Group is to survive increasing competition from other carriers. Blanc, determined to avoid a recurrence of the situation two years ago which led to the resignation of the previous president of Air France, Bernard Attali, says: "Air Inter is in the process of finding out, too slowly for my liking, that competition has its effects".

The strikes come during the run-up to the French presidential elections. "Some would like to use the presidential campaign as a lever to try and win concessions. If that is the objective of the unions, they underestimate my determination", said Blanc on French television.

Blanc has also made it clear that he wants to see privatisation of Air France, and even the Air France holding group, take place "as rapidly as possible".

Source: Flight International