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Air France May Play a Part Rescuing Country’s No. 2 Airline

Patrick Whyte, Skift
Air France May Play a Part Rescuing Country’s No. 2 Airline

Air France is considering buying parts of Aigle Azur, France’s second largest carrier, which filed for bankruptcy earlier this week.

“We’re looking at it, it’s a very complex situation,” Air France CEO Anne Rigail said on Thursday at the World Aviation Festival in London.

Air France’s interest is likely to revolve around slots at Paris’s second largest airport Orly.

Aigle Azur has canceled all flights from Saturday, September 7. The airline had 11 aircraft, around 1,150 employees and mainly flew between France and Algeria. Chinese conglomerate HNA Group is the largest single shareholder with a 49 percent stake, while airline entrepreneur David Neeleman owns 32 percent.

“Of course we’re trying to help by having some fares for their customers from Algeria or other parts,” Rigail said.

The Dubreuil group, which owns Air Caraïbes and French Bee, is also keeping a close watch as is British Airways owner IAG, according to French newspaper LA Tribune.

The company, which has been in financial difficulty for the last few months, has until Monday September 9 to find a buyer. 

“The state is fully mobilized to support the search for the best possible solutions to preserve jobs and provides support to identify opportunities for total or partial recovery of economic activity by a buyer or buyers,” the French government said in a statement.

Brand Consolidation

Given that parent company Air France-KLM is going through a period of brand consolidation it seems unlikely it will want to add the Aigle Azur name to its shrinking portfolio.

Group CEO Ben Smith has jettisoned millennial-focused airline Joon and domestic carrier Hop has been rebranded as Air France Hop to signal its closer alignment with the main French operation.

Come See Air France-KLM CEO Ben Smith Speak at Skift Global Forum in NYC Sept. 18–19. Get Tickets Now

“It became a bit confusing for the customer to have so many brands and we wanted at Air France-KLM level to focus on our two strong brands, that are Air France and KLM and also our low-cost brand Transavia that is also improving and growing fast,” Rigail said.

As well as a clearer structure, Air France has also been working hard to improve relationships with its unions following a series of walkouts in 2018.

“I think we made great improvements that now we have a real trust in the airline internally,” Rigail said.

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