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Pilots' strike forces Lufthansa to cancel hundreds of flights, more disruptions on the way

Germany's flagship air carrier Lufthansa has canceled hundreds of flights after pilots began a two-day walkout on Wednesday. And more cancelations are expected as the two sides remain divided.

Around 80,000 passengers booked on short- and medium-haul flights connected via Munich and Frankfurt have been affected Wednesday as domestic and European flights were canceled.

The dispute centers over the airline's plans to cut costs, alter pension plans and renegotiate collective bargaining agreements, which the pilots' union Vereinigung Cockpit has roundly rejected.

Neither side shows willingness to back down with the airline saying it will only expand its fleet and hire more staff if concessions are made by unions. In response, the pilots announced they will

expand their walkout to long-haul and cargo flights

on Thursday.

"Instead of working on a sustainable solution for the future, (the pilots' union) is hurting our customers across the globe," Lufthansa said in a statement late on Tuesday after the second walkout was announced.

Lufthansa's pilots have asked for mediation to resolve issues over cost saving measures in long-haul flights and negotiations over pay but the airline says it would only accept mediation over early retirement benefits.

This week's industrial action marks the 12th walkout in nearly a year over the airline's attempts to alter pension arrangements. Pilots can retire at 55 but receive 60 percent of their salary until they are 65, an arrangement the airline wants to scuttle.

Strikes last year cost Germany's largest air carrier around 232 million euros ($245 million).

Flights with Lufthansa's subsidiary carriers remained unaffected.

jar/bw (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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