Lufthansa, Europe’s largest airline, was forced to cancel hundreds of flights on Friday. On Saturday, the German airline warned that more interruptions for passengers might take place due to a number of flight attendant and cabin crew walkouts, which could possibly become the longest-ever labor union strike at the major airline carrier.
Reuters reports Lufthansa flight attendants were instructed to strike at the airline’s biggest hub in Frankfurt, Germany, as well as at Dusseldorf airport — affecting more than 37,500 passengers.
The Lufthansa flight crew strike began on the first day of a week of planned protests over failed pension talks. The Independent Flight Attendants’ Organization union, or UFO, said the strike was to be followed by walkouts on short-haul flights from Frankfurt and all other flights from Dusseldorf on Saturday.
According to Lufthansa, the walkouts will result in about 520 short-haul flights being cancelled that day, affecting close to 58,000 passengers. Lufthansa said it already had cancelled 290 planned flights, including 15 long-haul departures for Friday, which are typically more profitable for the German aircraft carriers. However, Lufthansa announced eight long-haul flights would still take off as scheduled.
Reuters adds that Lufthansa’s other main hub in Munich will not be subject to walkouts by Lufthansa flight crew until after Sunday, given the school holidays in that part of southern Germany.
The walkout took place after the union and Lufthansa were unable to reach an agreement in a long-running struggle for flight attendants to receive early retirement benefits and pensions. In an attempt to compete better with low-cost competitors and Gulf carriers, Lufthansa has been trying to negotiate with various staff groups. Additionally, the airline is attempting to bring down pension costs as part of the company’s savings drive to be more competitive in today’s travel industry.
If management at Lufthansa does not make concessions, the union declared they would carry out a threat to stage more walkouts until Nov. 13.
Equinet analyst Jochen Rothenbacher said that depending on the number of cancellations, the Lufthansa flight attendant strike could cost the German airline about $21 million a day. Strikes by pilots have already cost Lufthansa $139 million this year.
Forbes‘ coverage of the Lufthansa flight crew strike includes airline representatives’ criticism about the unpredictable nature of the walkouts.
Lufthansa reserved 2,500 hotel rooms in Frankfurt to help stranded passengers. In addition, Lufthansa has set up hundreds of stretcher beds in the airport for passengers in transit who could not leave the airport because they lacked visas.
A spokesperson for Lufthansa’s cabin crew workers union spoke to Reuters about the final attempts to find a conclusion and reach an agreement.
“Lufthansa said yesterday that they had agreed to all our claims. That is not correct. Lufthansa has not offered us anything new. They have even threatened us, saying that if we strike our jobs are going to be in danger. That is not a good starting point to re-start our negotiations.”
In the last 18 months, Lufthansa airlines have had more than a dozen labor strikes costing the airline close to $140 million this year. Union representatives say this latest strike could go on for an entire week, making it the longest-running strike in the German airline’s history.
Nevertheless, a quote in Forbes‘ article by Lufthansa promises that the airline will do their best to minimize this latest labor strike’s effect on their customers.
“Lufthansa will do its utmost to keep the effects of the strike to the minimum and to inform passengers as soon as possible. For that reason Lufthansa requests all passengers to stay up to date by checking flight status.”
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