Furious Air France employees stormed the company's central committee meeting and attacked two company executives following the announcement of 2,900 job losses. Human resources director Xavier Broseta and the head of Air France in Orly, Pierre Plissonnier, found themselves in the midst of an angry mob who literally ripped their shirts off their backs as they tried to escape the enraged crowd.
Air France's first forced dismissals since 1993 would include 1,700 ground staff, 900 cabin crew and 300 pilots between now and 2017. The company would also see its fleet reduced by 14 jets and Boeing 787 orders cancelled, as well as the phasing out of ageing Airbus Group SE 340s. Last week, Air France failed to reach a deal with pilots, who had been asked to work more hours for the same pay in a bid to stem annual losses going back to 2011, and the company said it would scale back routes in the absence of an agreement. The cost-reduction meeting was postponed after the staff members with banners and flags forced their way into the room.
"These attacks were made by isolated and particularly violent individuals as the demonstration by personnel on strike was going on calmly," Air France said in an emailed statement. Parent company Air France-KLM has said that it will take legal action against those responsible for the "aggravated violence" in Roissy-en-France.
As the crowd descended on the committee meeting, Air France chief executive Frederic Gagey escaped unscathed. But he was followed by an unluckier Plissonnier, who was led through the horde with his jacket and shirt in tatters. Like Plissonnier, Broseta was also stripped and security guards helped him scale a fence to flee the attack.
Air France-KLM has struggled to deal with budget airlines and increased competition from Middle Eastern carriers and it has relied on attrition and early retirement packages to cut the payroll by 9,000 over a three-year period.
"For several years now, successive heads of Air France have suggested rescue plans... Each time, it's a bottomless pit with the same suggestions," secretary general of the General Confederation of Labour trade union, Philippe Martinez told RTL radio.
"I believe they're trying to set one lot (of us) against the other. We need a real expert appraisal of the situation," he added.