Air France is piloting the overhaul of its domestic network

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PARIS, Aug. 12 (Reuters) – Air France pilots have voted in favor of an overhaul of the airline’s loss-making domestic network, their main union announced on Wednesday, paving the way for an expansion of the low-cost branch Transavia.In a referendum organized by the SNPL union, more than 90% of the pilots supported the plans of the CEO of the Air France-KLM group, Ben Smith, to allow the budget division to take over certain domestic routes of Air France and its HOP! short distance operation.

After the vote, the two sides signed formal amendments to labor agreements that previously barred Transavia from domestic services, the airline group said.

The coronavirus crisis has helped Smith, who joined Air Canada in 2018, carry out once-taboo domestic service reforms that lost € 200 million ($ 236 million) last year.

As part of the restructuring plans, Smith aims to reduce French domestic services by 40% and to transfer certain routes to Transavia as well as take-off and landing slots at Paris Orly airport.

“The rapid adoption of this agreement is a major step forward in the recovery strategy of the Air France-KLM group,” he said in a company statement on Wednesday.

The unions are also cooperating with plans announced last month to cut 7,580 jobs at Air France in response to the pandemic, with KLM cutting thousands more.

The group, which recorded an operating loss of 1.55 billion euros in the second quarter, received 10.4 billion euros in loans issued or guaranteed by the French and Dutch governments. ($ 1 = 0.8480 euros) (Reporting by Laurence Frost; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)

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