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Air France cuts 7,500 jobs and sparks criticism of €7bn state bailout

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Air France workers gather during a protest in front of the company headquarters in Tremblay-en-France, outside Paris.
Air France workers gather during a protest in front of the company headquarters in Tremblay-en-France, outside Paris.   -   Copyright  AP Photos
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Air France has today announced it plans to cut 7,500 jobs as the coronavirus lockdown continues to send shockwaves through the airline industry.

The country's flagship airline said that 6,500 jobs will be lost at Air France, while regional subsidiary Hop will lose a further 1,000 by 2022.

Most of the losses are expected to happen by not replacing retiring and resigning workers, the company said on Friday - although voluntary departures would be encouraged ahead of redundancies.

The decision comes as Air France revealed its traffic had dropped 95% during the peak months of the pandemic, leading to losses of €15 million per day.

This is not expected to be recovered until at least 2024.

A €7 billion state bailout was granted last month to rescue the airline, but this has since sparked anger as the talk of job cuts arose.

Other campaigners say the French government shouldn't have agreed to the financial package without more protections in place to preserve jobs.

"The state bailout funds are welcomed, but they must remain bailout funds and mustn't contribute to destroying a bit more of the company,” Guilhaume, 51-year-old Air France pilot, told Associated Press.

“The bailout funds must be used to rebuild Air France, as they must help rebuild other companies, big companies as well as small and medium-sized companies, liberal professions, the culture sector etc., everything that constitutes a nation in fact, a country. It mustn't be used to increase unemployment and put people into poverty."

Guilhaume was among protesters that gathered outside Air France’s headquarters at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport on Friday as talks began over the job cuts.

For Greenpeace France, the job cuts are the result of bad decisions by the French government.

“The government is today an accomplice of the choices made by the management of Air France,” said Sarah Fayolle, transport campaign manager at Greenpeace France.

“Supporting the company with 7 billion euros without requiring strong and restrictive conditions, both social and environmental, was an irresponsible decision."