Air France-KLM appoints Air Canada Exec As CEO

August 16, 2018

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Air France-KLM has selected Air Canada executive Benjamin Smith as its new CEO, the first time a non-French candidate has been appointed to the position.

Smith, who is currently Air Canada’s chief operating officer, will start work at the airline group by the end of September.

Air France said Smith has played a major role at Air Canada over the past two decades and his priority will be to “revitalise” the airline and to work on a new leadership approach.

The airline said he has “defined and implemented Air Canada’s transformation strategy over the past decade… and redefined Air Canada’s hub strategy, creating three major hubs to align with the airline’s key markets.” He was also the prime mover behind low-cost carrier Air Canada Rouge.

“I am well aware of the competitive challenges the Air France-KLM Group is currently facing and I am convinced that the airlines’ teams have all the strengths to succeed in the global airline market,” Smith said in the statement announcing his appointment.

“I am approaching this new challenge with my passion for the aviation sector and with my deep willingness to listen to all stakeholders,” he added.

Previous chief executive Jean-Marc Janaillac resigned in May after failing to persuade Air France staff to accept a four year pay deal. Janaillac had said prior to a staff vote on the company proposal that it would be hard for him to remain CEO if staff rejected the offer.

Air Canada congratulated Smith on his appointment and thanked him “for his significant contributions in many various roles at Air Canada over the past two decades.” Smith will officially leave the Canadian airline at the end of the month.