Lufthansa pilots have continued their strike action causing more major flight disruptions, especially in Germany. With an eye on millions in losses, the company has called for talks to resume as soon as possible.
The pilots' trade union "Cockpit" on Thursday evening confirmed that its strike would end at midnight on Friday, after a third and final day of heavy disruptions for Lufthansa and its subsidiary carriers.
Hundreds of Lufthansa aircraft remained grounded on Thursday as pilots belonging to the union continued their protest against Germany's largest carrier. The three-day strike action - the biggest in the company's history - is expected to cost millions in lost revenue.
Lufthansa has only been able to offer about 10% of its standard daily schedule as a result of the strike. Some 20,000 domestic passengers had been provided with free train tickets with Deutsche Bahn, Lufthansa said on Thursday, while others received replacement tickets with other carriers.
Lufthansa CEO Christoph Franz appealed to the company's pilots to resume negotiations, both for the sake of the passengers and the company.
"I hope we can quickly resume talks and then find an acceptable compromise for both sides," Franz told German newspaper "Bild" on Thursday. "German airlines aren't the only ones that can fly. There are alternatives and, for that reason, all who are involved [in this week's strike] need to be clear about what's at stake."
Lufthansa seek special status
Franz also appealed in the business daily Handlesblatt for restrictions on the right to strike.
"From our perspective, even during a strike, there should be a requirement to maintain a minimum level of the most critical transport infrastructure, including the rail network and the security of flights," Franz told Handelsblatt in an interview to be published in full on Friday.
Ahead of the strikes, Lufthansa cancelled 3,800 flights and its low-cost carrier Germanwings cut 1,332 . An estimated 425,000 passengers were expected to be affected by the strike, scheduled to last until midnight on Friday.
Pilots protest in Frankfurt
On Wednesday, pilots staged a protest outside of Frankfurt Airport, accusing the company of greed.
"Pilots take responsibility, fat cats take the profits," one sign read. Another read "Nonstop PROFIT."
Lufthansa generated a net profit of 313 million euros ($432 million) last year. Meanwhile, it wants to slash costs by 1.5 billion euros in a bid to boost its profits.
Union pilots are calling for higher wages, claiming the German airline had failed to make a negotiable offer over the two years they have been in talks.
The pilots are also protesting cuts to so-called "transition contracts." Under the early retirement agreements, pilots have the option to stop flying at the age of 55 and receive up to 60 percent of their gross earnings until they reach the legal retirement age. Not only does Lufthansa plan to raise the age to 60, but it also wants to change the rules so that entry-level pilots begin paying a portion of the transitional retirement fund.
msh, kms/lw (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)