Air France says it has accepted the resignation of Franck Terner as CEO of the airline, appointing newcomer Benjamin Smith the fill the role temporarily.

Smith was hired as the new CEO of the Air France KLM group last month, causing uproar in France as he is the company’s first non-French boss.

Terner became chief executive in November 2016, having joined the group 36 years ago.

The reason for his resignation was not outlined in the airline’s statement.

Smith will oversee the operation of Air France in the interim, with the carrier saying this will last no longer than the end of the year.

He takes over the role as Air France continues negotiations with unions in a dispute over staff salary that has led to multiple days of strike action and cost the airline hundreds of millions of pounds.

Anne-Marie Couderc, chairman of the Air France KLM and Air France boards of directors, commented: “I applaud the work carried out by Franck Terner, an accomplished air transport professional, over his 36-year career with the group. Benjamin Smith’s priority will be to define Air France’s short and medium-term strategic vision, find a solution for salary issues and set up a new company governance structure.”

Smith added: “I wish to thank the Air France board of directors for its trust. I commend Franck Terner’s personal investment in the company. Air France, part of the Air France KLM group, has everything it needs to become one of the world leaders in the sector again. I am well aware of company employees’ expectations, including salary issues. I wish to offer a new approach. Following my first work meeting with Air France teams and union representatives, I am fully confident in our ability to build together the future and the success of Air France.”

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