As flight attendants began their week of walkouts at 2:00 p.m. local time (1300 UTC) on Friday. Lufthansa, Germany's flagship carrier, said 37,500 passengers would be affected by its cabin crews' walkouts.
Lufthansa's flight attendants kicked off their planned week of walkouts at the airline's Frankfurt and Dusseldorf hubs Friday afternoon, in the latest escalation of a long-running dispute over better pay and pension conditions.
Upon announcing the first two sites of the strikes, the UFO union said its latest protest action would target different airports over the course of the next seven days. Lufthansa criticized the unpredictable nature of the walkouts, saying customers would bear the brunt of the inconvenience.
By noon on Friday, Europe's largest airline had already cancelled 290 flights, including 23 intercontinental routes scheduled to either take off or land in Frankfurt.
"Around 10 percent of all flights will have to be cancelled," a Lufthansa statement said.
The airline also reserved 2,500 hotel rooms in Frankfurt for stranded passengers and set up hundreds of stretcher beds in the airport's transit zone for passengers just traveling through who would be unable to obtain visas allowing them to leave the airport.
UFO, the cabin crew union, announced that it would carry out further walkouts at Frankfurt and Düsseldorf airports on Saturday, between 6 AM and 11 PM.
Keeping customers in mind
A spokeswoman for the UFO union said it would try to minimize the impact of the walkouts on passengers traveling home as school holidays come to an end in the southern states of Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg.
"No industrial action is planned at all on Sunday since most people travelling that day will be doing so in a private capacity," UFO said.
Not the first strike
The walkouts are separate from an ongoing dispute between Germany's flagship carrier and pilots over changes to Lufthansa's early retirement scheme.
For its part, Lufthansa has said it must restructure the company or risk losing market share. It is currently facing stiff competition from budget airlines and Arab Gulf airlines, which have a reputation for much less generous compensation compared to Lufthansa.
The German airline's restructuring plans have struck a nerve with pilots and, most recently, flight attendants, who are concerned about Lufthansa expanding its low-cost offerings. The fear is that any such moves could lead to unfavorable changes in pay, benefits and working conditions for union members.
ls, cjc/kms (AFP, dpa)