Air France reached an agreement Wednesday with striking pilots to end a 10-day walkout that severely undermined preparations for the World Cup.
The strike embarrassed Air France, the World Cup's official carrier, as well as the French government.An estimated 1 million fans are expected to travel to France for the monthlong soccer tournament, which begins Wednesday with a match between defending champion Brazil and Scotland. Many fans already have arrived, some of them forced to switch airlines.
The pilots have been protesting a proposal for $83 million in salary cuts. Air France had said cuts were needed to modernize the airline, which neared bankruptcy in 1993, but reported profits in 1996 and 1997.
Air France said the pilots had agreed to accept company shares in exchange for salary cuts - and the company, in turn, scrapped a two-tier salary scale, under which new pilots earned less.
Jean-Cyril Spinetta, the president of Air France, told France Info radio Wednesday "this is a compromise that is good for the company, good for the employees and good for the clients."
But he added that the consequences of the strike were heavy and that the strike had cost the company $166 million.
The pilots seemed satisfied with the agreement.
"On the whole, the agreement is a good one for everybody. The com-pa-ny had its constraints and its objectives to achieve. I think it will be able to reach them," said Christian Paris, a spokesman for the SNPL, the main pilots' union.
Air France called for an immediate return to work.