December 12th, 2018 – it finally happened…
Anne Rigail has done what should have happened a long time ago. She’s the first female CEO of a major international airline. Air France made the news official today and Rigail will take the helm when France opens for business on Monday, December 17th. So who is Anne Rigail, and what’s she going to do with Air France in 2019 and beyond?
In August of 2018, Benjamin Smith, previously of Air Canada stepped in at Air France as acting CEO amidst a sea of strikes and controversy which had embroiled his predecessor. Labor issues in France are more complicated than filling out a tax return and 2018 was easily one of the worst years on recent record. Amongst the people deemed important enough to report directly to the CEO was Anne Rigail, the Executive Vice President of Customer. Rigail is long noted as a driving force in change at Air France with a passion for customers and understanding of the concerns of the airline labor force. She’s worked in airlines her entire professional career. She can now add shattering the glass ceiling in a male dominated industry, where 97% of all CEO’s are male to her list of accomplishments.
Air France faces a variety of unique challenges in 2019 as it looks to compete with emerging budget airlines throughout Europe while tackling labor issues and a revamped ‘Flying Blue’ loyalty program, not to mention the folding of “Joon”, its failed airline for millennials. Yes, that was a big mistake, even though the airline came out with the best family travel idea in history just before shutting its doors. It’ll be quite interesting to see how Ms. Rigail uses the valuable lessons from Joon in building upon the Air France brand in 2019. Technology is changing travel, and there’s no segment where that’s more true than millennials.
“Throughout her career with the company, she has always paid particular attention to her teams in implementing the changes she has made, placing the client at the heart of all her actions. The challenge for Air France today is, with the commitment of all employees, to confirm the excellent service to our customers”
– Benjamin Smith, Interim CEO Air France.
By all accounts, Anne Rigail has the respect of employees, the ear of the customer and the gusto of a great airline leader. It’s an honor to report on such a hard working industry executive rising to the highest level of the business. It’s about time! Now we’ll wait and see if Air France gets off to a high flying start in 2018. For now, it’s magnifique.