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Air France Managers Flee As Meeting Turns Violent

Air France managers fled a meeting on Monday about mass job cuts after angry staff waving banners and flags stormed the room.

The airline's human resources chief Xavier Broseta had his shirt ripped off and his tie hanging from his neck as he battled through crowds of workers, seeking to escape.

Broseta and Air France chief executive Frederic Gagey had been outlining a drastic cost cutting plan, described by the company as "Plan B" after it failed to persuade its pilots to accept a less radical one earlier this year.

Ministers have lined up in recent days to put pressure on pilots to strike a deal, and a September 26 opinion poll for Le Parisien newspaper found 71 percent of people see them as a privileged group, with 64 percent believing they complain too much.

Ground staff unions long ago accepted the company's original, less draconian, cost-saving regime, in contrast to the pilots, who staged a strike a year ago that cost the company EUR€500 million (USD$560 million).

The main airline industry union FNAM also condemned the attack on Broseta.

Air France chief executive Gagey had already left the room before the works council meeting near Charles de Gaulle airport, north of Paris, was interrupted about an hour after it had begun.

Parent Air France-KLM said it planned to take legal action over "aggravated violence" carried out against its managers.

PLAN B

Air France confirmed at the meeting that it planned to cut 2,900 jobs by 2017 and shed 14 aircraft from its long-haul fleet, Reuters news agency reported.

The cuts include 1,700 ground staff, 900 cabin crew and 300 pilots. The long-haul business would be reduced by 10 percent.

The French airline also wants to cancel its order for Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft. Air France-KLM has 19 787-9 and six 787-10 jets on order.

Industry insiders said Boeing would be keen to keep the order on its books, possibly by agreeing to defer delivery.

GROWING COMPETITION

Air France-KLM is seeking to cope with growing competition. It has been at loggerheads with its main pilots union, the SNPL, over its plans.

Europe's big three airline groups, which also include IAG and Lufthansa, have been squeezed between low-cost competition inside Europe and fast-expanding long-haul airlines in the Gulf, as well as Turkish Airlines (THY).

Turkish Airlines is set to become the largest carrier on routes to and from Europe by the end of this year, ahead of British Airways. Dubai's Emirates would be in third place.

The data treats Air France and KLM separately.

Lufthansa, which is also battling with union opposition to cost-cutting, has managed to push forward plans for a revamped low-cost unit, Eurowings.

(Reuters)