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Brussels Airlines grounding hundreds of flights

May 14, 2018

Pilots at Lufthansa subsidiary Brussels Airlines have announced strikes on Monday and Wednesday as they seek higher wages. Three-quarters of all flights were expected to be canceled, the carrier said.

Brussels Airlines plane
Image: AFP/Getty Images/P. Pavani

Brussels Airlines would only operate 25 percent of its 557 flights on Monday and Wednesday, the carrier confirmed after the start of a pilots' strike that could affect more than 60,000 passengers.

"Each day of strike action will cost the airline some €4.7 million ($5.6 million)," a spokeswoman for the carrier said Monday morning.

Chief Operating Officer Thibault Demoulin argued the strike was "incomprehensible, since the company had submitted substantial offers to the cockpit union delegation."

But officials from the LBC-NVK union said the management's offers had all been too vague and after several rounds of unsuccessful negotiations hadn't met pilots' demands for a better work-life balance as well as for higher wages and pensions.

Exorbitant demands?

Managers for their part argued that agreeing to the demands of the pilots would basically boil down to saying yes to a 25-percent pay hike which would ruin the company financially.

Union leaders have also been demanding clarity from parent company Lufthansa about the future of Brussels Airlines. The German flagship carrier acquired Belgium's national airline in early 2017.

Brussels Airlines' profit and revenue have been modest at best, raising questions about its long-term viability. Lufthansa had originally thought the takeover would be a good deal because of the many EU officials and lobbyists using the Belgian airline to shuttle between their homes and the Brussels-based institutions.

Reuters reported that Lufthansa was now planning to use Brussels Airlines to expand long-haul operations for its Eurowings budget brand out of Dusseldorf in western Germany.

Budget airlines take off in Europe

hg/tr (dpa, Reuters)