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Air France appoints first female CEO

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Air France has appointed Anne Rigail as its new CEO, taking over from Air France-KLM Group CEO Benjamin Smithwho temporarily led the French unit following the resignation of Franck Terner in September.

Air France’s board of directors approved the appointment Dec.12. Rigail, formerly EVP-customer at Air France, will assume her new role Dec. 17.

She joined Air France in 1996 as head of customer services at Paris Orly Airport, before becoming VP-ground operations at Paris Charles de Gaulle in 2009. In 2013 she became EVP-inflight services before assuming her most recent EVP-customer role.

In a series of firsts, Rigail will become Air France’s first female CEO and is the first key appointment to be made by Smith, who became the carrier’s first non-French chiefearlier this year when he assumed the acting CEO role while he sought a successor to Terner.

Rigail’s appointment follows the Dec. 6 election of Guillaume Gestas as the new leader for the Air France unit of the SNPL pilots’ union.

With fresh leaders at both the airline and its main pilots’ union, there is a chance the deadlock between the two sides—which resulted in a series of damaging strikes earlier this year—could be broken.

In October, Air France reached new labor agreements with five of its ground staff and cabin crew unions. However, negotiations are still ongoing with its biggest pilots’ union.

Smith, who has been appointed as a director of Air France, described Rigail as “a strong professional in the airline industry,” who has “always paid particular attention to employees while implementing the many projects and transformations she has led.”

Smith added, “With the support and commitment of every single employee, I am confident we can rise to the challenges for Air France today, ensuring service excellence to all our customers. I have complete faith that Anne will succeed in transforming Air France.”

Rigail said she would “continue to dedicate all my energy and effort into ensuring the success of my colleagues and of Air France.”

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