Air France union slams free Paris-NY flight for Bruni

A union representing workers at Air France criticised the airline Wednesday for giving former first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy a free Paris-to-New York flight despite losses and job cuts at the struggling airline.

Bruni-Sarkozy, the former model and singer who married then-president Nicolas Sarkozy in 2008, flew on June 23 to New York, where she was promoting her latest album.

Under a longstanding tradition, former French presidents and their families are allowed to fly for free on Air France, which is partly state-owned.

But labour activists said it was time to rethink that policy now that the airline is struggling with significant losses and has announced plans to cut thousands of jobs.

The free flight has gone down badly with employees when "we are being led to believe that the situation (at the airline) is catastrophic," said Leon Cremieux of the SUD union.

"We're no longer in a monarchy," he said.

An Air France spokesman said only that the free flights for ex-presidential families were "a tradition".

As in many countries, former French heads of state and their families continue to receive state-funded protection and services after leaving office. In France, these benefits include free travel on Air France and the national rail network, as well as a car with two drivers.