The German airline Lufthansa is today facing its ninth round of strike action in less than a year, as pilot union Vereinigung Cockpit – representing 5,400 pilots – facilitates another staff walkout. BBC News reports that the airline has cancelled 1350 flights – or 48 percent of its scheduled services for December 1 and 2. As a result of the cancellations, and the resulting disruption expected on December 3 and 4, it is estimated that over 150,000 passengers have been adversely affected.
Lufthansa, which is based in Cologne, has been operational since 1926, and now has a fleet of over 285 aircraft. The dispute between the airline and its pilots regards an early retirement scheme that the organization has operated for decades, but now plans to phase out. Previously, Lufthansa pilots were able to retire at the age of 55, while continuing to receive up to 60 per cent of their normal salary, until the standard retirement age of 65 years.
Though Lufthansa is the largest air carrier in Europe, it has been undertaking reorganization of its services and subsidiaries, including budget arm Germanwings, in response to increased competition – particularly in the area of budget travel. However, the company has stated that it has agreed to concessions during these negotiations, including a 5 percent pay increase for pilots. Despite such agreements, discussions broke down once again, leading to a call for strike action from the union.
The strike action will affect short and medium haul flights from 11 UTC Monday to 22:59 UTC Tuesday, and long haul flights from 2 UTC Tuesday to 22:59 UTC Tuesday. Some disruption is also expected throughout the following two days. The services of Lufthansa’s budget flight arm Germanwings remain unaffected, and the airline urges customers to check the status of their flight before traveling.
At Frankfurt airport in Germany, Reuters reported the comments of Lufthansa passenger Elfriede Bretagne, regarding the strike action.
“They should have their money, but for us this is very obstructive. If you want to go somewhere on vacation and have it ruined for you, it’s not OK. They should sit down and come to an agreement.”
Lufthansa has characterized this latest strike action as “completely disproportionate,” and has urged all parties to return to the negotiating table. Previous actions this year have cost the company an estimated $160 million, and have added to the travel woes of passengers in Germany already contending with strike action taken by train drivers, represented by the union GDL. Those transport workers are demanding a 5 percent pay increase and a reduction of their working week to 37 hours. Though an agreement has yet to be reached, no further strike action for the rail network is currently scheduled.
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