August 8, 2018 / 10:03 AM / 12 days ago

Lead candidate to head Air France-KLM is Air Canada's COO -Le Monde

PARIS, Aug 8 (Reuters) - Air France-KLM's nominations committee has picked Benjamin Smith, Air Canada's chief operating officer, as its preferred candidate to head the airline, French newspaper Le Monde reported on Wednesday.

Le Monde quoted an unnamed senior Air France-KLM official as saying that no decision had yet been taken and that the final decision lay with the company's board of directors.

Air France-KLM has been hunting for a new boss since the abrupt departure of chief executive Jean-Marc Janaillac in May after staff rejected a pay offer aimed at ending costly strikes.

Asked to comment on the report in Le Monde, an Air France-KLM spokeswoman said: "The appointment process for the new Air France-KLM governance is underway and is continuing. No decision has been made."

The French state is the biggest shareholder in Air France-KLM with a stake of about 14 percent. Delta Airlines and China Eastern Airlines each hold 8.8 percent.

Senior French officials familiar with President Emmanuel Macron's thinking have said he is open to considering a non-French national to lead the group for the first time.

The appointment is seen as a test of Macron's resolve regarding the state taking a lighter touch on the economy.

Anne-Marie Couderc, the interim chairman of Air France KLM, said in a memorandum last month seen by Reuters that the airline hoped to have a new leadership team up and running by September.

Air France KLM on Wednesday reported higher traffic figures for July. (Reporting by Cyril Altmeyer, Matthieu Protard and Sudip Kar-Gupta; editing by Richard Lough and Jason Neely)

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