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U.S. Airways joins Star Alliance; German unemployment seen over five million; Consumer groups criticize rising bank fees

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U.S. Airways will soon be a Lufthansa partner.

U.S. Airways joins Lufthansa alliance

America’s seventh biggest airline, U.S. Airways, will join Lufthansa’s Star Alliance partnership program starting May 30, Lufthansa’s designated chief Wolfgang Mayrhuber told the Frankurter Allgemeine newspaper on Wednesday. The partnership regulates joint schedules and allows passengers to earn frequent flyer miles on Star Alliance flights. U.S. Airways will be the second American airline in the alliance after United. The two airlines had tried to merge last year, but the deal ran into trouble with competition regulators. Mayrhuber said Air China was also likely to join the Star Alliance to strengthen the group’s Asian coverage.

German unemployment seen topping five million

German joblessness may rise to record levels in 2004, according to Reinhard Kudiss an economics expert for the Federation of German Industry. “There is a big risk that the five million mark will be reached next winter,” Kudiss told the Berliner Zeitung newspaper in an interview on Wednesday. Germany’s six top economic institutes on Tuesday forecast unemployment in Europe’s largest economy would average 4.5 million in 2004. Over 4.6 million Germans, or 11.1 percent of the workforce, were without a job in March, the highest recorded level for the month since 1998.

Consumer advocates criticize EU over bank fees German consumer protection groups on Wednesday criticized the European Union Commission for using vague language in its directive on banking fees in euro-zone countries. The Commission ordered banks to have “equal charges” for the use of bank cash machines within the 12-country euro area, intending to bring international charges down to domestic levels. But consumer groups complain that German banks have instead begun to raise fees for automatic teller machines within Germany to match foreign charges. That means German consumers may have to pay as much as €4 ($4.36)when they use a cash machine not belonging to their own bank.