Air France’s main pilots’ union elected a new leader to represent it in negotiations with the carrier, ushering in the possibility of a less hostile approach to relations with management.

Guillaume Gestas will replace Philippe Evain as president of SNPL’s Air France branch, the union said Dec. 6 following a vote by members. Jean-Michel Julien and Guillaume Schmid will serve as vice presidents.

Evain led pilots through a series of damaging strikes over pay that cost Air France-KLM hundreds of millions of euros this year. With fresh blood at the helm of both the union and the airline—Ben Smith was named Air France-KLM CEO in September—there is early optimism in some quarters that relations between the two sides could start to thaw.

“Lots of pilots are unhappy with the stance the union has been taking. It has been a combative relationship for a long time,” JLS Consulting director John Strickland told ATW.

SNPL’s national bureau, SNPL France ALPA, announced Dec. 5 that it had also elected a new president: Yves Deshayes, an Air France Airbus A320 pilot.

Air France declined to comment on what effect, if any, the change in union leadership could have on industrial relations at the carrier.

Kerry Reals, kerry@realsreporting.com