Air France suspends two pilots who came to blows in mid-air

French carrier Air France has suspended two pilots after a heated disagreement in which "inappropriate gestures were exchanged" in the cockpit of a Geneva-Paris flight, the company said on Monday.

Air France suspends two pilots who came to blows in mid-air
Air France has suspended the pilots involved. Photo by Ramon van Flymen / ANP / AFP

“Following an argument between the two pilots at the controls of an Airbus A320… inappropriate gestures were exchanged,” Air France said.

“The pilots involved are currently suspended from flying and awaiting a managerial decision about how to deal with the events,” the company added.

The incident happened in June, but has only recently come to public attention in a report from France’s air accident investigators. 

The flight landed safely. 

French newspaper La Tribune had earlier reported that a physical altercation occurred as the plane was climbing after take-off from Geneva, when the co-pilot refused to follow an order.

The two men grabbed each other by the collar while remaining seated at their posts, La Tribune said.

“The incident was quickly over without affecting either the course or safety of the flight, which continued normally,” Air France said.

“Safety of customers and crew members is the airline’s top priority,” it added.

France’s air accident investigation agency recently released a report singling out repeated infractions against safety rules by Air France crews.

The BEA authority urged the carrier to “place respect for procedure back at the heart of the company’s safety culture”.

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SWISS pilots threaten an October strike action

The Swiss pilots’ union could go on strike during Switzerland’s busy autumn holiday period.

SWISS pilots threaten an October strike action

The union, Aeropers, which has been negotiating salary increases and improved working conditions with Switzerland’s national airline, has rejected the carrier’s latest collective labour agreement (CLA) and is threatening to go on strike.

The  (CLA) is a kind of contract that is negotiated between Switzerland’s trade unions and employers or employer organisations. Generally speaking, they cover a minimum wage for each type of work; regulations relating to work hours; payment of wages in the event of illness or maternity; vacation and days off; and protection against dismissal.

READ MORE : What is a Swiss collective bargaining agreement — and how could it benefit you?

The pilots said they would cease flying on October 17th, which falls in the middle of school holidays in a number of cantons — the period when many families holiday abroad.

“SWISS has not sufficiently entered into the matter of the legitimate interests of its pilots”, Aeropers said, adding that if the airline doesn’t come up with a better offer, the union “will initiate the procedures for a strike”.

For its part, SWISS said in a press release that it offered its pilots 60 million francs more than on the previous CLA, but “Aeropers executive committee has rejected this latest offer as inadequate, and has made demands of its own totalling over 200 million”.

However, Aeropers head Thomas Steffen has denied SWISS’ claim saying the 200-million figure is “a fantasy number” that has no basis whatsoever. According to Steffen, the pilots’ demand was “significantly less than half of this sum”.

He went on to accuse the airline of “propaganda” at the detriment of its employees”.

He added that the strike would me a last-resort measure if the dispute on pay, which has been going on for a year, is not resolved within a month.

“We’ve negotiated for a year and made sure that our members are level-headed and fly safely and reliably, despite being without a contract,” Steffen said.

If the SWISS cockpit staff, which also includes its sister airline, Edelweiss, does go on strike, it will be the latest labour dispute in Europe’s aviation, which includes a strike by Lufthansa ground crew, which impacted Switzerland over the summer.

However, strikes by Swiss workers is relatively uncommon compared to other countries.

READ MORE: Why are strikes so rare in Switzerland?