After the creation of which was from 2005 to 2009, the first group of global air transport, the crisis has deeply affected Air France-KLM. Although its fundamentals have been restored, as shown in the figures of FY 2010-2011 (operating income: 122 million euros, cash flow from operating out of Amadeus: EUR 1.35 billion), it has lost its position as number one for the benefit of the Lufthansa Group and its competitiveness has deteriorated. In addition, debt rises now to nearly 6 billion euros, which limits its investment capacity.
Air France in isolation, the return to profitability is still slower, FY 2010-2011 being the third in a row where the national company displays a negative operating result (-265 EUR). In the budget of the current year, Air France will be fair to the balance.
Air France has not yet found the economic model that ensures profitability in the long term and I fear that this would be a source of difficulties in the relationship with KLM. It cannot be satisfied to see the substance of the outcome of the Dutch group directed by the Dutch subsidiary ( 379 million), unless you accept that the two companies have different levels of development with the social consequences that this implies.
After the period of exceptional growth from 2004 to 2008, allowing the two companies closer, my sense is that the Air France-KLM group is seeking a second wind, that he has a second step in developing. The challenges he faced many due to a still more open world promoting the emergence of new competitors: companies in the Gulf and Asia on the long-range over-water, low cost and TGV on the medium-haul.
This will impose, on the one hand, the revision of the existing economic model and, on the other hand, the continuation of the movement of rapprochement with KLM and the consolidation movement, to lead to the definition major axes of the strategy for the future. It will have to confront and solve fundamental problems socially than productivity and labour costs that influence competitiveness.
In terms of governance, it is necessarily to the question of the men who will lead the fortunes of the group in the next ten or fifteen years and who will engage in this new strategy. In this area, it is not disputed that one arrives at the end of a cycle. The current leaders, gradually going to Air France 1997 and after doing considerable work by creating one of the leaders
The Director General, Pierre - Henri Gourgeon, is a great specialist in the sector, no one disputes, but it is true that it has most of the time horizon for this dynamic and to take a new step of its existence to the group.
His second term at the head of Air France-KLM should be conceived as a mandate of transition preparing the succession but which should not exceed two years. The role of administrators is to anticipate these deadlines, identify future leaders and put them in a position to exercise responsibilities at the highest level to prepare them for these functions.
From this point of view, the Group has not yet definitively broken with old administered management practices; If the French State owns 16 of the capital, it is the shareholder of reference no doubt, but it cannot impose its solution to other shareholders, including the employees of Air France holding almost 10 of the capital.
The idea of a parachute at the highest level of society is to outlaw, first because our Dutch partners are particularly hostile, then because Air France has a long experience in this area when she was a public company.
This is why it must focus on internal recruitment to the group without shut out the arrival of external skills but at positions where future leaders may be really "challengés" and prepared for their future responsibilities. Finally, these recommendations are neither more nor less than those of good governance.