The board of Franco-Dutch airline Air France-KLM on Monday replaced Chief Executive Pierre-Henri Gourgeon in a surprise move that highlights growing dissatisfaction with the slow pace of the company's financial turnaround as well as mounting friction between Gourgeon and the chairman of the board over a planned governance revamp.
In a statement, Air France-KLM said the aim of the changes "is to improve the group's operating and financial performance in a context of economic uncertainties affecting the European air traffic, as well as the position of Air France in respect of increased competition from new entrants."
The airline said Alexandre de Juniac, a senior aide to French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde before she took over the helm of the International Monetary Fund in June, has been appointed chairman and CEO of Air France, the French operational unit of the group that includes Dutch airline KLM.
The carrier gave no explanation for Gourgeon's departure.It said that, in the current economic context, the group "must give top priority to the recovery and improvement of the performance of Air France and of KLM," and that its efforts must focus on this. It added that for this reason it is putting on the back burner a plan to create an Air France-KLM holding company with real decision-making powers over the two operational divisions. That plan, which was to be implemented at the beginning of 2012, has been put off to 2013.