Air France-KLM's de Juniac To Head IATA

April 5, 2016

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Air France-KLM chief executive, Alexandre de Juniac, is stepping down to run the airline industry's main trade group, IATA.

No successor has yet been appointed for de Juniac, injecting a note of uncertainty into a company emerging from four years of restructuring amid tough competition from low-cost carriers and Gulf rivals.

Air France-KLM said it would appoint head-hunters to find a replacement, adding that de Juniac would take up his new post in Geneva by August 1 at the latest.

"There are no names lined up so far. There will be a process to identify the best person to take over the direction of Air France-KLM," a spokeswoman said.

De Juniac's departure to replace IATA Director General Tony Tyler, who retires in June, was not widely expected.

He was given a fresh four-year mandate by the airline's shareholders in May last year.

Choosing a successor will be a politically sensitive task for France's Socialist government after recent unrest over job cuts. The government owns 17.6 percent of the airline group.

Early speculation over possible candidates included the boss of Air France-KLM's French network, Frederic Gagey, and rail boss Guillaume Pepy, airline industry sources said.

De Juniac, 53, joined Air France in 2011 from the French treasury where he was senior aide to then finance minister and future IMF head Christine Lagarde.

He was credited with restructuring Air France-KLM without, for the most part, triggering major conflict with the company's powerful unions. But in 2014 plans to open bases for subsidiary airline Transavia outside France sparked a crippling 15-day pilot strike.

The IATA position will propel him into a new position as the airline industry's chief diplomat, seeking to temper trade conflicts between Gulf and Western carriers while leaning on governments worldwide to reduce regulation.

De Juniac has until now been a vocal critic of Gulf carriers that are steadily increasing their market share at the expense of European and other airlines.

IATA, which represents 260 carriers or 80 percent of the world's airline industry, said de Juniac's appointment would be confirmed at its annual meeting in Dublin in June.

(Reuters)