Anne Rigail, ceo, chief executive, airline, aviation, women, female, leaders, Air France, KLM, group, Benjamin Smith, Canadian, background, appointment
Anne Rigail, Air France's new chief executive (photo: Air France)

First woman to lead Air France

In an industry painfully short of women leaders, Anne Rigail now has the task of dealing with the airline’s powerful unions.

Air France has appointed its first female chief executive. Anne Rigail, 49, now has the task of bringing the airline’s powerful unions on board to prevent further strikes.

The appointment, in which she takes up her position as soon as December 17, has the approval of the Air France-KLM Group board of directors.

Rigail’s promotion is significant in an industry painfully short of women leaders, with just one out of 26 airline bosses at a recent aviation event being female, namely Christine Ourmières-Widener, CEO of Flybe.

Rigail is currently the airline’s executive vice president for customers and has a seat on the board.

Her appointment has the backing of Benjamin Smith, the Canadian who has been the French carrier’s acting chief executive since the previous boss quit in September. Smith leaves at the end of this month.

“I am delighted that Anne Rigail is to become the new CEO of Air France. Anne is a strong professional in the airline industry,” Smith said.

“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.”

He added: “Together with Pieter Elbers, president and CEO of KLM, the Air France-KLM Group is taking an important step in its reorganisation to reconquer its market position.”

Anne-Marie Couderc, chairwoman of the Air France-KLM Board of Directors, said of the interim CEO, “I would like to thank Benjamin Smith for the outstanding work he has accomplished during his time as acting CEO 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.”

Related stories

Air France may jettison Joon

CEO: Bring Air France and KLM closer

Qatar CEO: Only a man can run an airline