World

French government urges Air France pilots to end strike over shift to low-cost carrier

  • A traveller walks past a board reading "canceled flight", at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport, in Roissy, near Paris, Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014. Air France canceled at least half its flights around the world on Monday as pilots began a weeklong strike, highlighting the trouble Europe's flagship airlines face in keeping up with low-cost competitors. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

    A traveller walks past a board reading "canceled flight", at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport, in Roissy, near Paris, Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014. Air France canceled at least half its flights around the world on Monday as pilots began a weeklong strike, highlighting the trouble Europe's flagship airlines face in keeping up with low-cost competitors. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)  (The Associated Press)

  • Margaux Hengel, right, and Stephanie Leon of France react after their flight is canceled at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport, in Roissy, near Paris, Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014. Air France canceled at least half its flights around the world on Monday as pilots began a weeklong strike, highlighting the trouble Europe's flagship airlines face in keeping up with low-cost competitors. Both 24-year-old medical workers, already made a sacrifice before dawn on Wednesday. They hurriedly bought tickets on a 4-hour train to catch their flight to the Caribbean after their first-leg flight from Brest, in western France, to Paris was canceled. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

    Margaux Hengel, right, and Stephanie Leon of France react after their flight is canceled at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport, in Roissy, near Paris, Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014. Air France canceled at least half its flights around the world on Monday as pilots began a weeklong strike, highlighting the trouble Europe's flagship airlines face in keeping up with low-cost competitors. Both 24-year-old medical workers, already made a sacrifice before dawn on Wednesday. They hurriedly bought tickets on a 4-hour train to catch their flight to the Caribbean after their first-leg flight from Brest, in western France, to Paris was canceled. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)  (The Associated Press)

  • Katie Ford of the U.S.  right, checks her flight ticket as her husband Steve, left, her daughter Madie, second right, and her son Charlie look on at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport, in Roissy, near Paris, Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014.  Air France canceled at least half its flights around the world on Monday as pilots began a weeklong strike, highlighting the trouble Europe's flagship airlines face in keeping up with low-cost competitors. For Steve Ford, who with his family had planned to take Air France to Birmingham, England for a wedding, it's understandable: Pilots have tens of thousands of lives in their hands every day. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

    Katie Ford of the U.S. right, checks her flight ticket as her husband Steve, left, her daughter Madie, second right, and her son Charlie look on at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport, in Roissy, near Paris, Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014. Air France canceled at least half its flights around the world on Monday as pilots began a weeklong strike, highlighting the trouble Europe's flagship airlines face in keeping up with low-cost competitors. For Steve Ford, who with his family had planned to take Air France to Birmingham, England for a wedding, it's understandable: Pilots have tens of thousands of lives in their hands every day. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)  (The Associated Press)

The French government wants Air France pilots to end a strike that has grounded half of the airline's flights this week amid anger over plans to shift much of its operations to a low-cost carrier.

Air France argues that it needs to cut costs to stay competitive in the face of tough rivalry from budget airlines and Gulf state carriers. Pilots are protesting plans to shift some activities to low-cost carrier Transavia and shift some jobs to countries with lower taxes and labor costs.

Government spokesman Stephane le Foll said Wednesday that the strike should stop and urged a return to negotiations. The French state owns 15.9 percent of Air France.

Air France is running only about 40 percent of its flights worldwide Wednesday, day three of the strike.