Air France axes CEO

ITS shares have dropped 60 per cent, cargo is down and questions prevail over pilot training – now Air France-KLM’s chief executive officer (CEO) Pierre-Henri Gourgeon has been ousted.

Gourgeon joined in 2009 on a four-year contract but quit after a board meeting on Monday. His departure came after recording the worst airline performance in the region and critics slammed the carrier’s poor pilot training, which was a factor in a 2009 crash that killed 228 people.

The carrier has replaced Gourgeon with chairman Jean-Cyril Spinetta. With Gourgeon as CEO Air France-KLM suffered operating losses in two of the past three fiscal years. Spinetta oversaw Air France through 11 years of profitability and later the enlarged company formed with the purchase of KLM Royal Dutch Airlines from 1998 through the end of 2008, with Gourgeon as his deputy.

“In the current economic context, top priority must be given to the recovery and improvement of the performance of Air France and of KLM,” Air France-KLM said in a statement. “Consequently, the setting-up of a full-dedicated Air France-KLM holding, which was to be implemented at the beginning of 2012, has been put off. In these circumstances, Pierre-Henri Gourgeon has resigned from his duties as CEO of Air France and Air France-KLM.”

Government official Alexandre de Juniac will serve as CEO of the Air France unit.

Air France-KLM shares fell as much as €0.40 (US$0.55), or 7.1 per cent, to €5.21 ($7.19) and were down 3.4 per cent as of Monday morning, in Paris trading. The company has a market value of €1.62 billion ($2.22 billion), down about 60 per cent since it first listed in 1999.

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