PARIS Air France will operate only 40 percent of its flights from Monday as pilots begin a one-week strike over company plans to cut costs to recapture market share from budget airlines, the airline said in a statement on Saturday.
Speaking to France Inter radio earlier in the day, Chief Executive Frederic Gagey repeated that the strike, which could run until September 22, would cost the airline between 10 and 15 million euros a day.
Europe's second-largest traditional carrier by revenue said in early September it would move ahead with a plan to open new bases in Europe under the Transavia brand to recapture market share from low-cost carriers and Middle East rivals.
"Air France forecasts it can guarantee 40 percent of its flights for Sept. 15 given the number of pilots on strike on that day is estimated at 60 percent," the airline.
Air France, which has issued a profit warning in recent months, is hampered by powerful unions in their efforts to lower costs. The main pilots' unions have called for strikes from September 15-22.
The airline has said it is open to negotiation on benefits tied to seniority and incentives for Air France pilots who transfer to Transavia, but will not yield to trade unions demanding that the labour contracts of Transavia pilots carry the same terms as those flying under the Air France brand.
"The passengers will be informed and we ask them, if possible, to change their tickets to avoid this period which is a little uncertain," Gagey told France Inter.
"It will be 10-15 million euros in losses each day," Gagey said.
(Reporting By Chine Labbe; Writing by John Irish; Editing by Ralph Boulton)