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.


‘Huge increase’ in crude prices not expected: IEA executive director

Updated 19 July 2019
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‘Huge increase’ in crude prices not expected: IEA executive director

  • The International Energy Agency is revising its 2019 global oil demand growth forecast down to 1.1 million barrels per day
  • IEA’s Fatih Birol: Serious political tensions could impact market dynamics

NEW DELHI: The International Energy Agency (IEA) doesn’t expect oil prices to rise significantly because demand is slowing and there is a glut in global crude markets, its executive director said on Friday.
“Prices are determined by the markets ... If we see the market today, we see that the demand is slowing down considerably,” said IEA’s Fatih Birol, in public comments made during a two-day energy conference in New Delhi.
The IEA is revising its 2019 global oil demand growth forecast down to 1.1 million barrels per day (bpd) and may cut it again if the global economy and especially China shows further weakness, Birol told Reuters in an interview on Thursday.
Last year, the IEA predicted that 2019 oil demand would grow by 1.5 million bpd. But in June this year it cut the growth forecast to 1.2 million bpd.
“Substantial amount of oil is coming from the United States, about 1.8 million barrels per day, plus oil from Iraq, Brazil and Libya,” Birol said.
Under normal circumstances, he said, he doesn’t expect a “huge increase” in crude oil prices. But Birol warned serious political tensions could yet impact market dynamics.
Crude oil prices rose nearly 2 percent on Friday after a US Navy ship destroyed an Iranian drone in the Strait of Hormuz, a major chokepoint for global crude flows.
Referring to India, Birol stressed the country could cut its imports, amid rising oil demand in the country, by increasing domestic local oil and gas production.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had set a target in 2015 to cut India’s dependence on oil imports to two-thirds of consumption by 2022, and half by 2030. But rising demand and low domestic production have pushed imports to 84 percent of total needs in the last five years, government data shows.
Meanwhile, the IEA doesn’t expect a global push toward environmentally friendly electric vehicles can dent crude demand significantly, Birol said, as the main driver of crude demand globally has been petrochemicals, not cars.
He said the impact of a serious electric vehicle adoption push by the Indian government would not be felt immediately.