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Frankfurt airport passengers delayed by Lufthansa strikes

Passengers at Frankfurt airport suffered delays as a strike against Lufthansa by cabin staff took place on Friday. The action was staged after union negotiations regarding wages and staff policy failed.

A spokesman for the airline told the DAPD news agency shortly after 1 p.m., when the action was scheduled to end, that he had heard no news that strike action would be extended. He said the company hoped to be operating services normally by the evening.

A union official told the AFP news agency shortly afterwards that the walkout was over, claiming that the participation in the strike had been "very high."

Six hours prior to the 5 a.m. start of the strike on Friday morning in Frankfurt, the cabin staff union UFO said the work stoppage would last for eight hours.

A Lufthansa spokeswoman said that a large number of the 360 planned flights during the period of strike action would have to be cancelled. However, the firm said every effort would be made to keep long-haul flights on schedule. The airline added that Lufthansa Regional and German Wings would not be affected.

"Lufthansa regrets that the passengers are having to shoulder the burden of this dispute," the airline said on its website. "The fact that UFO only announced the strike plans shortly before they started is an additional burden for passengers because they cannot plan as well."

UFO had said prior to the announcement with the details of the strike that it would deliberately wait until just before the start of the strike to make the announcement.

"If Lufthansa were to know concrete details more in advance, they would make additional efforts to shift staff and aircraft to other airports," UFO labor union boss Nicoley Baublies told the news agency DPA.

Negotiations break down

On Tuesday, UFO called for the walk-out after overnight negotiations with management about wages and staff policy for the 19,000 flight cabin crew it represents had failed. The union was seeking a five percent pay increase for cabin staff, as well as assurances from Lufthansa to stop the use of lower-paid temporary workers in cabin crews.

Baublies reaffirmed the union's determination to launch an open-ended strike, but expressed the hope that pin-pointed actions might force Lufthansa to make a new offer.

"If that isn't going to happen, we have drafted plans for an all-out and indefinite strike," he told DPA.

Extended industrial action could prove costly for Lufthansa, which already faces strong headwinds from rising fuel prices and fierce competition from low-cost carriers, which resulted in an a loss of 20 billion euros ($25.1 billion) in the first six months of this year.

uhe,mz, rc / ccp (dpa, Reuters)