A woman has been appointed for the first time to run Air France.

Former customer executive vice president Anne Rigail has been promoted to chief executive of the French flag carrier as it faces key pay talks with pilots.

Her elevation was proposed by former Air Canada executive Benjamin Smith, who joined as chief executive of holding company Air France-KLM in September.

Rigail has worked for the group for 27 years having first joined former subsidiary Air Inter in 1991.

Smith was appointed head of the French airline alongside his group role for a transitional period after former boss Franck Terner resigned.

Rigail will oversee pay negotiations with cabin crew and pilots as the carrier aims to bring an end to strikes that have cost millions of euros, undermined consumer trust and led to the resignation of its parent company’s last two CEOs.

Smith said he had “complete faith” that Rigail would “succeed in transforming Air France”.

“Together with Pieter Elbers, president and chief executive of KLM, the Air France-KLM Group is taking an important step in its reorganisation to reconquer its market position,” he added.