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Lufthansa pilots' strike affects over 100,000

November 23, 2016

Pilots for Germany's leading airline have announced a two-day strike. The news came just after a Frankfurt court refused to allow the company an injuction against the industrial action.

Deutschland Lufthansa Symbolbild Streik
Image: Reuters/K. Pfaffenbach

Lufthansa pilots launch 48 hour walkout

Lufthansa announced on Tuesday that a strike would likely ground 900 flights and "affect some 100,000 passengers." The news came after a labor court in the state of Hesse threw out a last-minute injunction the airline had tried to file against the Cockpit pilots' union.

In a statement released after the ruling, the union said the strike would affect both short distance and long-haul flights on Wednesday and Thursday. This most recent action is the 14th strike at the airline since 2014 as part of a long-running pay dispute.

The union is seeking a 3.7 percent raise for around 5,400 pilots in Germany as Lufthansa seeks to cut costs amidst increased competition from both low-cost rivals and luxury Gulf carriers. The airline's offer of a 2.5 percent pay rise over six years was soundly rejected by Cockpit. The union has repeatedly accused Lufthansa of pocketing billions while letting their pilots' salaries stagnate.

Deutschland Lufthansa-Pilotenstreik in München
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/M. Balk

Lufthansa pilots launch 48 hour walkout

Speaking to German broadcaster ZDF on Wednesday, Lufthansa spokesman Martin Leutke accused the union of being "more interested in escalation rather than finding a solution to the conflict." He stressed that the airline was willing to continue negotiating with the union and wanted "to find a solution as soon as possible."

Cockpit executive board member Jörg Handwerg said that the airline had until this point only made a "sham offer" that demanded compensation for any tariff increases caused by the strikes. A "zero sum game" is "not a serious offer," Handwerg told ZDF. 

Cockpit has threatened further strike action if Lufthansa reviews its proposals. 

Lufthansa estimated that the strike will cost the airline between 7 million euros and 9 million euros ($7.4 million and $9.6 million) per day. The company also said the union's decision to extend the strike to Thursday was "completely incomprehensible."

The strike began at midnight on Wednesday (German time) and will last 48 hours. Lufthansa said 51 intercontinental flights would be canceled. The company also announced that its subsidiaries Eurowings, Austrian Airlines, SWISS and Brussels Airlines would not be affected by the labor action.

The airline said it is hoping that it can accommodate some stranded passengers by running larger Boeing 777 aircraft on its subsidiaries' routes.

Earlier on Tuesday, cabin employees at the company's budget Eurowings division saw 60 flights in Hamburg and Düsseldorf grounded in a short-term strike that has come to an end.

es,dm/bw (AFP, dpa)