Smith appointed chief executive at Air France-KLM

Current Air Canada chief operating officer Benjamin Smith has been selected by Air France-KLM as its next chief executive.

Smith has played a major role at Air Canada over the past two decades, and becomes the first overseas leader of Air France-KLM.

He will begin his new role on September 30th.

Anne-Marie Couderc, non-executive chairman of Air France-KLM, said: “The arrival of Benjamin Smith is excellent news for the group.

“He is a world-renowned leader in the airline sector who successfully transformed Air Canada.

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“As a man who prefers dialogue, he developed and implemented the historical long-term win-win agreements with the airline’s social partners for the benefit of Air Canada’s teams, the airline and all other stakeholders.”

Smith’s appointment was backed by the French government over union objections.

He fills a role left by Jean-Marc Janaillac, who stepped down as chairman and chief executive of the organisation earlier this year in the wake of protracted strikes and a staff vote against his pay.

Union unrest continues to dog the airline, with industrial action wiping more than €300 million off first half earnings.

Smith said: “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.

“I am confident in the group’s capacity to become one of the world’s leading players.

“I look forward to earning the trust and respect of all teams, working together to win in this highly competitive and fast-changing customer service industry.”

Smith started out in 1990 at Air Ontario in parallel with his studies and in 1992 set up his own retail corporate travel agency.

Since his 2002 arrival, Smith has filled several high-ranking positions at Air Canada.

He was successively chief commercial officer and head of network planning, before joining the Air Canada executive management team in 2007.

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