Pilots’ strike: lufthansa almost suspends flight operations

The list of more than 200 connections published on the internet on monday only included the canceled intercontinental flights, a spokesman in frankfurt explained. The list will be extended on monday to include the short and medium haul routes which have also been cancelled. The cancellations are valid for connections until saturday.

Further information on the pilots’ strike and flight cancellations at lufthansa can also be found here.

Air traffic almost discontinued
due to a strike by its pilots, lufthansa will almost cease flight operations for three days starting wednesday. In response to the threat of industrial action by around 5400 airline workers, the company cancelled a total of 3800 connections from wednesday to friday, lufthansa announced in frankfurt on monday. Only about 500 flights could be offered in the period with jets of the group companies eurowings, lufthansa cityline and air dolomiti, where the pilots were not on strike. Affected are about 425.000 passengers to be offered extensive rebooking options.

This is one of the worst walkouts in the history of lufthansa. Europe’s largest airline expects double-digit million euro damage to earnings. 23 of 31 planned cargo flights operated by lufthansa cargo have already been canceled, the company said. In 2010, the pilots had already threatened a four-day strike, but called it off after one day.

Information and services for passengers
lufthansa offers its guests extensive rebooking services. So the foreign group brands austrian airlines, swiss and brussels airlines are also to fly to germany with coarser jets, if they are available. For domestic connections, passengers will be referred to the railroads. Passengers are also asked to inform themselves on the internet.

Lufthansa’s head of human resources bettina volkens said it was difficult to understand why the pilots’ union vereinigung cockpit (VC) was calling for a three-day all-out strike at the current stage of negotiations. "We have made good offers for both improved compensation and a future early retirement scheme", volkens said according to a press release.

The cancellations affect lufthansa flights up to and including saturday. First flights to north america already cancelled for tuesday. Last week, lufthansa had canceled around 600 connections during the much shorter warning strike by airport staff.

According to its own figures, lufthansa operates around 1,800 flights a day. However, this also includes flights operated by eurowings, lufthansa cityline and air dolomiti, which are not subject to a strike. Cockpit had last week announced a three-day all-out strike from this wednesday to friday. Affected are the companies lufthansa, lufthansa cargo and germanwings.

In previous strikes, the airline’s goal with its replacement flight plans was to return to normal operations as quickly as possible after the strike ended. For this reason, it is important that aircraft and crews are at the places where they were scheduled to be at the end of the strike. That could be more difficult this time when pilots still fly their planes to germany and there the hubs frankfurt and munchen are crowded.

The sticking point and cause of the strike are the transitional pensions unilaterally announced by lufthansa, which up to now have enabled pilots to leave the profession prematurely. In an original vote, 99.1 percent of the approximately 5400 pilots voted in favor of a labor dispute on this issue. The collective agreement on salaries is also open, with the VC demanding an increase of just under 10 percent.

On sunday, according to both sides, there was a last attempt to stop the strike with negotiations. Lufthansa has clarified its proposal again, but not improved it, VC wage expert ilona ritter told the dpa news agency: "we had not misunderstood anything. Lufthansa wants to worsen the previous arrangements and also introduce a generation split." VC, however, demanded a uniform regulation, which must also apply to the younger colleagues. In return, they had offered to cap the costs, but lufthansa had not accepted.

"We deliberately wanted to give each other another chance to better understand the other side," says, explained a lufthansa spokesman. It was very regrettable that the opportunity had not been taken, especially since there had been hardly any change in the retirement benefits for current employees. However, the parties remain ready to talk at any time. The flight cancellations could no longer be avoided, however, because the tarpaulins could not be moved up and down at will. Lufthansa had decided to keep the impact of the strike on customers as predictable as possible at an acceptable time. Otherwise there would be chaos.

The german airports association (ADV) criticized the VC’s action: "the german airports expect the cockpit association to adhere to a fair strike culture. The announced strike goes beyond all dimensions – from the timing at the beginning of the easter vacations in some federal states to the scope of several days", ralph beisel, chief executive officer, said in berlin.

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