Germany's flag carrier Lufthansa has announced hundreds more flight cancellations Friday and Saturday, as a pilots' strike over a pay dispute continues unabated. Already, the costs of the industrial action are huge.
Lufthansa announced on Thursday it would cancel a further 830 short-and medium-haul flights on Friday to adapt to a continued strike by its pilots over a pay dispute.
This means that just over a quarter of the airline's schedule will be affected Friday, hitting more than 100,000 travelers. Germany's flag carrier added that most long-haul flights would not be affected.
Late Thursday the Cockpit union announced that the strike would continue for a fourth day on Saturday and affect all the long-haul flights from Germany scheduled for that day. Affected passengers can rebook their flights without charge or request rail travel vouchers, the airline said. Lufthansa has also reserved thousands of hotel rooms for stranded travellers, while camp beds had been set up at Frankfurt airport for passengers who do not have a valid visa to enter Germany.
Lufthansa board member Harry Hohmeister said cancellations for the first two days of the strike, meaning Wednesday and Thursday, had already cost the airline some 20 million euros ($21 million), and customers were making fewer bookings.
"Not only have we suffered severe damage from the strike, but we're noticing from mid-term booking numbers that customer behavior is changing," Hohmeister said in a statement.
The pilots' union, Vereinigung Cockpit (VC), wants a backdated average pay increase of 3.7 percent annually for 4,500 pilots in Germany over a five-year period from 2012. Management for its part is offering 2.5 percent annually over six years to 2019.
The airline has urged the union to enter mediation several times, but VC officials have said they first wanted Lufthansa to table a better offer.
CEO Carsten Spohr insists that despite a record profit in 2015, Lufthansa has no choice but to cut costs to compete with rivals such as discount airline Ryanair on short-haul flights, and Emirates on long-haul flights.