Air France-KLM reportedly plans to introduce single-class passenger cabins, eliminating Business class on some medium-haul sectors, as part of its medium-haul operational review (Dow Jones, 08-Sep-09). The carrier reportedly plans to announce a final decision on the restructure of medium-haul operations by the end of 2009, for implementation in early 2010.
Air France-KLM to eliminate Business class on medium-haul services?
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Airline strikes: 2016 a peak year for Europe's legacy airlines. Wakeup time, as LCCs pick them off
Pilot strikes at Lufthansa. Again. A strike ballot among British Airways cabin crew. A guilty verdict for Air France workers who assaulted an executive during a union protest. These were all headlines in late Nov-2016, following Air France pilot and cabin crew strikes in summer 2016. Labour relations at Europe's three biggest legacy airline groups are an ongoing challenge.
A CAPA report in Jun-2016 highlighted the growing number of articles on CAPA's website mentioning the word 'strike'. It raised the possibility that if the rate continued through the year, 2016 could be the biggest year for strike-related articles since before the global financial crisis. With a little under a month still to go, this year has already comfortably passed this milestone.
To a large extent labour unrest grows as airline industry profits increase. However, rather than hoping for an industry downturn to reverse the rise in the cycle of strikes, airline CEOs are talking tough – a line long taken by IAG's Willie Walsh. Lufthansa's Carsten Spohr has said that taking on the pilots is "about the future of Lufthansa", noting that it has “no chance of survival" if it gives in to pay demands (Bloomberg, 24-Nov-2016).
Air France-KLM, Lufthansa & IAG: 3Q2016 results may signal a cyclical peak in Europe airline margins
Air France-KLM, Lufthansa Group and IAG collectively reported a fall in operating profit and operating margin in 3Q2016, after growth in 1H2016. Individually, only IAG avoided a decline in its operating margin. IAG also remained the most profitable, and Air France-KLM the least profitable, in the most important quarter of the year.
The margin contraction in 3Q resulted from a bigger fall in unit revenue relative to 1H, without a matching fall in unit cost (in spite of lower fuel prices). Passenger unit revenue fell by 6% to 7% for all three (adjusted for currency movements), with long haul markets especially weak. Unit revenue was particularly soft on routes to Asia Pacific and on the North Atlantic (and, for Lufthansa Group) on the South Atlantic.
The combined operating margin of the three has been a good indicator for European airlines overall in the past. The outlook for FY2016 for each still suggests that there will be margin improvement for the year as a whole. This could be in line with, or slightly above, the cyclical peak reached in 2007 – before the global financial crisis. Against this backdrop, the decline in margin in 3Q2016 suggests that further improvement may be difficult in 2017.