World Cup: Petty Labor Disputes 1, France's Reputation 0

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PARIS: Air France pilots have finally figured it out: Going on strike just ahead of the World Cup may be a good strong-arm tactic to use with the bosses, but it ain't exactly going to win any sympathy contests. With thousands of soccer fans -- not to mention Eritreans attempting to flee the growing conflict with Ethiopia -- stranded, the pilots' popularity is plummeting. A poll in Le Journal du Dimanche showed that just 38 percent of the union-friendly French public support their strike. Compare that to 79 percent for the truckers last fall, and you have the picket-line equivalent of an own goal.

And so late Sunday night, the appropriately named pilot union spokesman Christian Paris booted the ball into Air France's half by suggesting the airline set up special flights for World Cup ticket holders. Management is tackling that proposal right now -- but with just two days before the tournament begins, the flagship carrier has barely 25 percent of its scheduled planes in the air. In other words, the fans' battle to join their teams is set to go into injury time.