Thursday, 25 October 2012

Interview: Christine Ourmières, CityJet CEO

No job cuts at CityJet despite Transform 2015 exclusion

Air France subsidiary CityJet has moved to reassure Paris-based employees that exclusion from its parent company's Transform 2015 restructuring plan will not result in layoffs.

CityJet's French employees have been lobbying for inclusion in Transform 2015 because the plan - which encompasses fellow subsidiaries Regional and Britair - guarantees that there will be no forced redundancies in 2012 or 2013.

Insisting Transform 2015 is "not the best fit" for CityJet, chief executive Christine Ourmières says the subsidiary's own restructuring programme has protected jobs.

"We are just finishing our own programme with voluntary redundancies, which we launched at the beginning of this year," she notes. "Air France is starting its plan."

With more than 100 CityJet employees taking voluntary redundancy this year, the "extensive" restructuring programme is now nearing completion and no forced departures are expected.

"Our Fokker fleet had a reorganisation in 2011, and on our Avro fleet we did a massive programme this year. So we are done. Our fixed-cost basis by head count is at the right level for our activity."

Ourmières acknowledges, however, that questions about CityJet's future ownership structure have caused concern among staff, particularly in the current economic climate.

"Uncertainty is something that is always difficult to manage for anybody," she says. "They see that there is more certainty being included in the Transform plan, rather than being on a different path. So they would like to have more proximity with their French regional colleagues in the [Air France] group.

"I understand their concerns. I understand why they felt a little bit worried about not being part of this huge French restructuring plan. But there is a much better place for us to be than part of this plan."

Asked about Air France's ongoing effort to sell the subsidiary, Ourmières says negotiations with potential investors have begun but that divestment is not a foregone conclusion.

"Air France say that they are studying many options. Nothing is decided," she notes. "We will try to find a solution that is the best one for the future of the company, and for the staff."

CityJet posted a full-year loss of €54.8 million ($71 million) in the 2011 financial year. Though Ourmières says profitability will be "difficult" to achieve in 2012, she insists: "There's huge potential for CityJet to be a profitable business."