© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Passengers board an Air France plane at the Nantes-Atlantique airport in Bouguenais near Nantes

PARIS (Reuters) – Air France-KLM will propose a voluntary redundancy scheme that would affect nearly 400 ground staff at French airports, La Tribune said on Saturday, a day after the airline posted a deeper first-quarter loss.

The Franco-Dutch company, which blamed higher fuel costs and price competition for its operating loss of 303 million euros ($339 million), will present the redundancy plan to a union and management meeting on May 13, La Tribune said on its website.

Another 200 departing staff would not be replaced, it added.

An Air France spokesman confirmed that a voluntary plan to cut short-haul ground staff would be presented on May 13 but declined to give details on the proposals ahead of the meeting.

He also said that a company review had pointed to a need to hire more than 1,000 people across the company’s business this year.

Air France-KLM has trailed rivals Lufthansa and British Airways (part of Intercontinental Airlines) on profitability, held back by restrictive French union deals and strikes that last year wiped 335 million euros off earnings and forced out its previous chief executive.

Under CEO Ben Smith, who joined last September from Air Canada, the airline is seeking to boost efficiency in part via better coordination of the Air France and KLM networks, but his task is complicated by the arrival of the Dutch government as a major shareholder keen to preserve KLM’s autonomy.

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