Air France has appointed Anne Rigail as its new CEO following the departure of Franck Terner.

Rigail, who was previously executive vice president of customer at the airline, was put forward by acting CEO Benjamin Smith, boss of the Air France KLM group.

She will take up the role on 17 December. Her appointment adds Air France to just 3 per cent of airlines worldwide with female CEOs, according to IATA.

Rigail joined French airline Air Inter in 1991 and was appointed head of customer services for Air France at Paris-Orly in 1996. In 1999, she became director of passenger and baggage connections at Paris-Charles de Gaulle (CDG) and subsequently became head of customer and baggage products for ground operations.

In 2005, Rigail was made head of the Paris-CDG Hub Operations Control Tower before being appointed as vice president of ground operations at Paris-CDG in 2009. She became executive vice president of in-flight services in charge of cabin crew in 2013 and was named executive vice president of customer in 2017.

Rigail joins after a year of turmoil for Air France, with staff staging multiple strikes over pay and conditions. Former Air France KLM CEO Jean-Marc Janaillac stepped down after employees rejected his pay offer and was replaced by Benjamin Smith, the group’s first foreign boss, some months later.

The airline reached an agreement with staff on pay rises in October, but Rigail will be charged with continuing to monitor employee relations to avoid further strikes in the future.

Anne-Marie Couderc, chairwoman of the board at Air France KLM, commented: “I would like to thank Benjamin Smith for the outstanding work he has accomplished during his time as acting CEO of Air France. Under his leadership, our airline has rapidly taken decisive steps, renewing constructive social dialogue and proposing a new executive governance structure as seen with the arrival of Anne Rigail. I wish Anne every success in her new position, for the benefit of both Air France and the Air France KLM Group. I am very pleased that she has accepted this very exciting new challenge.”

Benjamin Smith added: “I am delighted that Anne Rigail is to become the new CEO of Air France. Anne is a strong professional in the airline industry. Throughout her career, she has always paid particular attention to employees while implementing the many projects and transformations she has led, and placed the customer at the heart of everything she does. With the support and commitment of every single employee, I am confident we can rise to the challenges for Air France today, ensuring service excellence to all our customers. I have complete faith that Anne will succeed in transforming Air France. Together with Pieter Elbers, president and CEO of KLM, the Air France KLM Group is taking an important step in its reorganisation to re-conquer its market position.”

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