Air France said it would impose cost savings on its flight attendants after a majority of cabin crew refused to back the airline's proposals to rule out compulsory job cuts in exchange for a 20 percent improvement in productivity.
Two out of three unions representing cabin crew voted against the proposal to cut 5,122 posts through voluntary measures, dealing a blow to the loss-making airline's efforts to push through politically sensitive restructuring plans.
Air France is looking for cost reductions of EUR€2 billion (USD$2.46 billion) over two and a half years to reduce its debts by an equal amount and ensure its survival as one of Europe's largest carriers.
Air France chief executive Alexandre de Juniac said earlier this week the company's 'Transform 2015' plan, already accepted by ground staff, would be pushed through even if the airline's 15,000 flight attendants rejected it.
Support for the plan by the airline's largest cabin staff union, representing 26 percent of attendants, fell short of the 30 percent support needed for the proposal to be adopted.
"This document demands too much even if we are aware of the economic situation," said Sonia Mitic, an official at SN-PNC, one of the unions that rejected the proposal.
De Juniac told a hearing on Tuesday that the airline would apply a tougher version of the plan if cabin staff rejected it.
Results of a similar referendum among Air France pilots are expected to be announced in the middle of August.
Air France is trying to persuade about 60 pilots to work for three years at its low-cost division Transavia France in exchange for bonuses.
An Air France spokesman said similar incentives had been offered to flight attendants who later turned down the offer.