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Canadian exec Smith to take Air France-KLM helm
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Canadian exec Smith to take Air France-KLM helm

Air France-KLM’s board of directors appointed Air Canada COO Ben Smith as its new CEO, the first non-French national to head the group.

The Aug. 16 announcement comes after a months-long search to find a successor to former CEO Jean-Marc Janaillac, who resigned in May over a labor conflict with Air France’s workforce that had sparked 15 strike days between February and June and snowballed into a management crisis.

Smith will face the major first task of steering the group through challenging pay negotiations with Air France unions before getting the Franco-Dutch group’s strategy back on track.

Smith resigned his position as president, airlines and COO at Air Canada Thursday and is expected to take up his duties by no later than Sept. 30.

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