Air France-KLM has charged Air Canada chief operating officer (COO) Benjamin Smith with turning around its fortunes after appointing him as the airline’s group new chief executive officer (CEO).
The board of directors voted at a meeting yesterday in favour of Smith who has been at the Canadian carrier for the last two decades and he will take up his duties at Air France-KLM at the latest on 30 September, 2018.
In the meantime, the interim governance structure established on 15 May, 2018 will remain in place. Anne-Marie Couderc, non-executive chairman of the Air France-KLM and Air France Boards, and the Management Committee consisting of three members, will continue to perform their duties until then.
On his arrival, Smith will take over executive management of the Air-France-KLM Group and will establish its organizational structure. He will be in charge as a priority to revitalise Air France, to give a new strategic impulse to the Group and to work on a new leadership approach with all Air France-KLM’s teams.
Couderc said: “The arrival of Benjamin Smith is excellent news for the Group. Benjamin is a world-renowned leader in the airline sector who successfully transformed Air Canada. As a man who prefers dialogue, he developed and implemented the historical long-term win-win agreements with the airline’s social partners for the benefit of Air Canada’s teams, the airline and all other stakeholders.
“Benjamin Smith will bring his in-depth knowledge of the sector and his unique energy to the job to resume dialogue with Air France-KLM teams around a shared vision and to define a new go-to-market plan that will address the challenges of strong global competition.
“His on-the-ground experience will ensure a team-oriented approach to increase customer satisfaction and brands value. On behalf of the Board, I welcome and assure him of our total support for the task ahead. The Board also wishes to thank the three members of the Management Committee for their unfailing dedication during this complex transition period.”
Smith said he was “very enthusiastic” about this new opportunity and added Air France and KLM are both airlines well known for the professionalism and commitment of their teams.
He continued: “I am well aware of the competitive challenges the Air France-KLM Group is currently facing and I am convinced that the airlines’ teams have all the strengths to succeed in the global airline market. I am confident in the Group’s capacity to become one of the world’s leading players.
“I look forward to earning the trust and respect of all teams, working together to win in this highly competitive and fast-changing customer service industry. I am approaching this new challenge with my passion for the aviation sector and with my deep willingness to listen to all stakeholders so we can work together and win.
“I have spent my entire career in this industry and I am convinced that the teams of the Air France-KLM Group are its strongest assets for its future success. I believe that over the past two decades I have developed very strong trust-based relations with my colleagues at Air Canada and I am looking forward to meeting the teams at Air France-KLM in September to begin working alongside them. I thank the Board of Directors of Air France-KLM to entrust me with this mandate.”