Air France Appoints First Female CEO

Anne Rigail has the key task of trying to get the unions onside in order to avert further strike action. If she succeeds, the future looks good for Air France.

Air France has named Anne Rigail as its new CEO.

The appointment secured the approval of the Air France-KLM Group board of directors and she will assume her new role on December 17.

Rigail’s promotion is significant in the broader aviation industry since very few women have risen to senior executive ranks.

Rigail, 49, currently serves as executive vice president overseeing customers at the airline where she also has a seat on the board.

One of her key challenges upon assuming the role will be sorting out the relations between Air France and its unions, a situation potentially made easier thanks to a change in leadership at the powerful SNPL union.

Air France-KLM CEO Benjamin Smith has been filling in as head of the French unit after its previous boss, Franck Terner, quit in September.

“I am delighted that Anne Rigail is to become the new CEO of Air France,” said Smith. “Anne is a strong professional in the airline industry. Throughout her career, she has always paid particular attention to employees while implementing the many projects and transformations she has led, and placed the customer at the heart of everything she does.”

A RARE APPOINTMENT

At an aviation event earlier this year, Bloomberg noted that in a gathering of 26 airline bosses only one — Christine Ourmières-Widener, CEO of struggling UK regional airline Flybe — was female.

In June, aviation intelligence provider CAPA found that only 18 airlines had women in the roles of CEO, president, or managing director, exactly the same number as when it last looked in 2010.

Speaking at Skift Global Forum in September, Joanna Geraghty president and chief operating officer at U.S. airline JetBlue, outlined a number of potential solutions to the lack of diversity.

“We haven’t put into place any specific targets, like 50 percent at the leadership level by a certain date. We have not done that yet. It’s not to say we won’t,” she said.

“For us, it’s about exposure. It’s about opportunities. Mentorship is a component of it, but it’s really about education and making sure that leadership teams appreciate that, even beyond gender, it’s so important to have a team that has diversity of thought.”

Source: Patrick Whyte, Skift.com

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