Paris (AFP)

The new aid provided to Air France by the French state as part of a recapitalization plan may not be the last, given the situation in the aviation sector, French Minister of the Economy Bruno Le Maire said on Wednesday. .

"The airline sector in Europe is facing its most important crisis in decades," Le Maire reminded Bloomberg TV, the day after the presentation of a new plan to help Air France-KLM overcome the consequences of the pandemic. of Covid-19, which cost it 7.1 billion euros last year.

This recapitalization operation, which includes the conversion of a French public loan of 3 billion euros into quasi equity and a new fundraising of one billion, will allow the French State to more than temporarily double its stake in the Franco-Dutch airline, almost 30%.

Asked about the possibility of this aid being the last, Mr Le Maire replied: "I will not say that it is. I hope it will be."

"We will see what the situation of the airline sector will be in the coming months, but I will not say that this is the last aid that we are granting to Air France", he added, while the operation announced on Tuesday was strictly supervised by the European Commission, which demanded compensation.

Faced with the health crisis, which reduced air transport activity to the minimum and increased the losses of all companies, the French and Dutch States granted in 2020 more than 10 billion euros in loans to Air France- KLM, including seven billion on the French side (three billion in direct loans and four in guaranteed bank loans).

Air traffic remains at a very low level in Europe, against the backdrop of the spread of Covid-19 variants and a vaccination campaign that has not yet reached its cruising speed.

Air France-KLM on Tuesday said it expected an operating loss of 1.3 billion euros in the first quarter, and saw its cash flow shrink by one billion between the end of December and the end of February.

Tuesday's operation is only a first step in consolidating the company's accounts: by 2023, it wants its net debt to not exceed double the gross operating surplus, a level that it needs. will allow "to return to finance on the financial markets", according to its management.

© 2021 AFP