In airline-business rarity, Air France picks a woman CEO

In this file photo taken on March 26, 2018, Air France's Executive Vice President Customer Division Anne Rigail speaks during a press conference to announce the re-opening of direct flight between Paris and Nairobi, in Nairobi on March 26, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 13 December 2018
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In airline-business rarity, Air France picks a woman CEO

  • As of June, there were just 18 women holding down jobs of CEO, president or managing director at airlines around the world, according to the Center for Aviation, an Australia-based airline industry research group

PARIS: When the leaders of global airlines posed for a photo in June, there were 25 men in dark suits and a lone woman in the last seat on the far right.
That could be changing, but very slowly.
Air France announced Wednesday that Anne Rigail will take over as CEO next week. Rigail, a 27-year company veteran and currently an executive vice president, will be the first woman to lead the French carrier, which was formed in 1933. Parent company Air France-KLM Group will continue to be led by a man, however.
Few women have run large airlines. Carolyn McCall was CEO of British low-cost carrier EasyJet for seven years until leaving this year to run British broadcaster ITV. Christine Ourmieres-Widener, the woman in the June photo of CEOs, leads Flybe, a European regional airline that has fewer than 100 planes.
In the United States, Air Wisconsin, a regional airline that operates United Express flights, is led by CEO Christine Deister, and another regional, Cape Air, has a female president, Linda Markham.
But no major US carrier has ever had a female CEO, and only a few women hold other top jobs. In May, JetBlue Airways named Joanna Geraghty president and chief operating officer — the No. 2 job. Tammy Romo has been chief financial officer at Southwest Airlines since 2012, succeeding another woman. Elize Eberwein is an executive vice president at American Airlines.
As of June, there were just 18 women holding down jobs of CEO, president or managing director at airlines around the world, according to the Center for Aviation, an Australia-based airline industry research group. That is unchanged from a 2010 survey.
Women in the industry have said airlines need to do more to recruit and promote women, provide better mentoring, and encourage those who take maternity leave to return to their careers.
The International Air Transport Association — that’s the group whose leaders were pictured in June — has declared gender equality a priority. The group reported in March that only 3 percent of aviation CEOs are women, compared with 12 percent in other industries.
It didn’t help, however, that the association’s new president, Akbar Al Baker, the CEO of Qatar Airways, suggested that women aren’t up to the job of running an airline.
“Of course it has to be led by a man, because it is a very challenging position,” he said at a news conference. He later apologized.
As the new CEO at Air France, Rigail will certainly have her challenges. The airline faces contentious wage negotiations with pilots and flight attendants and has been hit by a series of damaging strikes. The last CEO quit after union employees rejected his offer of small pay raises for the next four years.
In a statement issued by Air France, Rigail said she is extremely honored by the promotion. Benjamin Smith, the CEO of parent Air France-KLM Group, said Rigail has always paid special attention to employees, and he expressed confidence that the airline can meet its challenges.


Irish financial system can withstand ‘cliff-edge’ Brexit

Updated 12 min 13 sec ago
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Irish financial system can withstand ‘cliff-edge’ Brexit

  • Irish Central Bank Deputy Governor Ed Sibley: I am satisfied that from a financial stability perspective, these cliff-edge risks are now manageable
  • Ed Sibley: This is not to say that a hard Brexit will not be bumpy for the economy and for the financial system. Indeed, some level of market disruption would be inevitable

DUBLIN: The Irish financial system can cope with a hard Brexit — and the “most significant” firms are already implementing their contingency plans, Irish Central Bank Deputy Governor Ed Sibley said on Thursday.
Ireland is seen as the EU member state most vulnerable to the threat of an unruly exit by Britain, from the implications for its currently seamless border with the British province of Northern Ireland to the tightly intertwined trade with its nearest neighbor.
“I am satisfied that from a financial stability perspective, these cliff-edge risks are now manageable,” Sibley said in a speech.
“This is not to say that a hard Brexit will not be bumpy for the economy and for the financial system. Indeed, some level of market disruption would be inevitable,” he added.
But he said the financial system could withstand such turmoil.
“The Irish banking system is considerably more resilient than it was, and the most significant firms operating in Ireland across all sectors have, in line with our requirements, prepared and are executing contingency plans for a hard Brexit.”
Sibley added that the risks to Irish consumers from Britain crashing out of the EU in March without a deal are mitigated to the greatest extent possible, but that the central bank was conscious of some remaining risks to the detriment of consumers.
These include the closely connected Irish and British insurance markets that Sibley said had required the central bank and government to draft legislation to protect insurance customers in the event of a no deal Brexit.
While he said the vast majority of Britain- or Gibraltar-based firms have taken appropriate action to ensure they can continue to provide service to Irish consumers, the draft legislation provides for a temporary run-off regime allowing those without appropriate plans to service existing contracts for three years.
The legislation will not allow these firms to write new business, including the renewal of existing policies, and Sibley cautioned that even with the mitigation, the supply of niche insurance products may reduce or end altogether, given the potential increased costs and frictions.
Separately on Thursday, the Motor Insurers’ Bureau of Ireland (MIBI) told road users that their vehicles will need a Green Card to cross the border into Northern Ireland or travel to Britain if it leaves the EU without a deal or some kind of transitional arrangement.
Currently all Irish vehicles can travel seamlessly through Northern Ireland, but MIBI warned motorists that they should contact their insurer or insurance broker one month in advance to ensure they receive the documentation in enough time if the prospect of Britain crashing out of the EU on March 29 remains.