Air France-KLM CEO Jean-Marc Janaillac announced his decision to resign Friday as Air France crews and ground staff held their 13th day of strikes over pay and rejected the company's wage proposal. His exit raises questions over Air France's ability to cut costs to compete with Gulf carriers and low-priced airlines.
The outgoing CEO has the backing of the French government as President Emmanuel Macron tries to overhaul his country's economy by liberalising labour laws.
His resignation was a response to staff at the carrier's French operations rejecting a pay deal aimed at ending months of walkouts.
The offer was open until 4 May, but did not receive the number of signatures required for it to be implemented.
Air France said flights for May 7, also a strike day, were operating as forecast.
Intermittent strikes in recent weeks have prompted the cancellation of a quarter of flights on average.
Flights by KLM and Hop! will not be affected by the walkout, Air France said, adding customers with tickets for travel Monday or Tuesday can re-book free of charge.
Back in 2015, protesters ripped the shirts off Air France executives after the company revealed plans to cut thousands of jobs.
Due to this situation, the French minister already warned that the State will not take charge of the losses "of a group that does not make the efforts to be at the level of the most competitive airlines in Europe and in the world".
"The survival of Air France is in the balance", he said, adding that the state would not serve as a backstop for the airline's debts.
And on Sunday, minister Bruno Le Maire warned Air France could "disappear".
On Friday Air France announced a net loss of €269 million in the first quarter of 2018 and said the strike is set to cost the airline at least €300 million over the course of the year.
This is in sharp contrast to its performance a year ago, when the shares rose 160 percent as Janaillac initiated reforms to restructure and improve the finances of its French brand, said Roche Brune Asset Management's Laverne.
Societe Generale analysts warned the weaker earnings performance could lead to a rift between Air France and its profitable Dutch partner, KLM.
Staff and management at the carrier have been locked in a dispute over pay since February.