Lufthansa cancels 64 flights as strike begins
FRANKFURT – Reuters
REUTERS photoLufthansa cancelled 64 flights at its main hub Frankfurt today as cabin crew began the first of a series of strikes over pay and cost cuts in a busy holiday season.
The eight-hour industrial action, following the breakdown of 13 months of negotiations between Germany's largest airline and trade union UFO, is due to end at 1100 GMT today.
The stoppages were focused in Frankfurt, Germany's largest airport, but are expected to have an impact on the airline's global network.
Lufthansa said a quarter of flights scheduled on Friday in Frankfurt were cancelled, mostly bound for cities in Germany, and it would try to place passengers on alternative flights.
It said the strike, which could cost Lufthansa millions of euros for each day of action, affects mainly short and medium flights, but some long-haul ones were also hit.
"The call to strike action may lead to unscheduled flight delays and cancellations at Lufthansa. Long-haul flights are the uppermost priority and, wherever possible, should not be cancelled. Nevertheless, delays must be anticipated," Lufthansa said in a message to passengers on its Internet site.
Most parts of Germany are in the midst of their summer holidays, with regions like Bremen, Lower Saxony, Saxony and Thuringia ending them on Friday.
Like most global airlines, Lufthansa is battling soaring fuel prices, weak demand from cash-strapped passengers and economic slowdown, as well as fierce competition from low-cost carriers such as Ryanair.
Lufthansa, which operates around 1,850 flights daily, mostly from Frankfurt and Munich, needs to generate more profit to pay for 17 billion euros of new aircraft on order.
The UFO union, which represents around two-thirds of Lufthansa's 19,000 cabin crew, wants a 5 percent pay rise and guarantees that Lufthansa will not outsource jobs and use more temporary workers, as it has already done in Berlin.
Lufthansa says cabin crew must contribute to the cost-cutting program.
UFO warned this week the industrial action could continue for a very long time and widen into nationwide stoppages if Lufthansa does not meet its demands.