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.