Air France: Climbing

The renaissance of the once dysfunctional carrier

Jean-Cyrill Spinetta recalls the dark days of 1997 when he took command of financially strapped Air France, charged with pulling the airline out of a tailspin of labor unrest and a half-decade of losses. A growing number of French customers, long accustomed to work stoppages, viewed the airline with distrust and scorn. "When people start looking at their own flag carrier as unreliable, you've really got a problem," says Spinetta.

It wasn't just labor. Slimmed-down European rivals like British Airways had been aggressively exploiting deregulation to fuel growth, while ferocious American cost cutters like Delta were wooing ever larger numbers of passengers...

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