[PARIS] Air France said Wednesday the first day of a week-long strike by flight crews had forced it to cancel 13 per cent of flights, hitting business at the height of the busy holiday period.
The carrier said the cancellations were in line with expectations but forecast Thursday would see nearer 20 per cent of flights scrapped.
The carrier had said Monday it would cancel 30 per cent of domestic and medium-haul flights with some 35 per cent of flight attendants, who account for 13,600 of its 50,000-strong workforce, set to join a stoppage affecting about 10 per cent of long-haul flights.
Air France said it "deplored" the strike and added it was doing "everything to limit inconvenience" for passengers with some 20,000 set to be affected across the day.
The carrier added Thursday could see "some difficulties in composition of crews" leading to "limitations in passenger numbers." It added it would keep passengers informed by mail or telephone.
A spokesman added that Air France flights operated by low cost flyers HOP! and Transavia, as well as KLM et Delta codeshares were not affected by the stoppage.
Airport sources reported the situation was calm Wednesday morning at the main Paris hubs Charles de Gaulle and Orly despite the disruption to some flights.
Unions representing around half of the strikers last Friday said they stoppage would go ahead as marathon talks failed to bring a breakthrough on renewing a collective labour accord on rules, pay and promotions which expires in October.
Management want to limit the extension of the agreement to 17 months, whereas unions want between three and five years.
Flights to destinations in Europe, North Africa and Israel will be affected, as well as some routes in Asia and Africa, the company said Monday.
In late June the CEO of the Air France-KLM group, Jean-Marc Janaillac, warded off a pilots' strike that would have been the second such stoppage during the Euro football tournament.
The pilots' last strike, which grounded around 20 per cent of flights on June 11-14, hit France as it was gripped by social unrest over a series of disputed labour reforms from the Socialist government.
Air France estimated that stoppage cost it some 40 million euros (S$59 million).