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Hundreds of flights canceled as Lufthansa pilots strike again

German airline Lufthansa has canceled hundreds of flights over the next four days because of a strike by pilots. The latest walkout begins at Monday lunchtime.

A breakdown in talks with Lufthansa over retirement benefits saw the German pilots' union Vereinigung Cockpit (VC) call a strike for December 1 and 2.

The walkout will affect more than 150,000 passengers, the airline said on Monday, as 1,350, or nearly half, of the scheduled flights have been cancelled.

Passengers will be affected in the following ways:

- a strike on short- and medium-haul flights begins midday Monday (1100 UTC), lasting until 11.59 p.m. Tuesday (2259 UTC).
- a strike on long-haul flights begins 3 a.m. Tuesday (0200 UTC), lasting until 11.59 p.m. Tuesday (2259 UTC).
- flights of budget subsidiary Germanwings are not affected.

A complete list of canceled flights can be found on Lufthansa's website. Most of the affected flights are on Monday and Tuesday, but there are also a few on Wednesday and Thursday.

Flights of Lufthansa Cargo will also be affected during the same Tuesday hours as the strike on long-haul flights.

It's the latest in what has been repeated industrial action this year, centering on a long-running disagreement between VC and Lufthansa over retirement benefits. Lufthansa plans to gradually increase the age at which pilots can take early retirement.

Currently, pilots can retire at age 55 and receive up to 60 percent of their pay until the normal pension kicks in at the age of 65. The union wants this to continue for all pilots. Lufthansa is in the process of expanding its budget operations as it undergoes restructuring in the face of heavy competition from low-budget rival airlines.

The airline says eight previous walkouts this year by staff have cost it some 160 million euros ($200 million) from its operating profit.

Passengers within Germany have faced a year of disruptions due to strikes, with Deutsche Bahn rail services also affected. The latest walkout by train drivers happened last month during celebrations marking the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

jr/lw (Reuters, AFP, dpa)

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