Thousands of flights have been cancelled in extended strike action by Lufthansa pilots aiming to ramp up the pressure on management over a long-running pay dispute.
Germany’s flagship carrier announced on Wednesday (November 23) that planned 24-hour action would continue until Friday (November 25), with the final day’s strike applying only to short-haul flights.
Lufthansa’s CEO says he expects the action to cost between seven and nine million euros a day. Pilots are the only employees striking, meaning the company is still legally obliged to pay other workers – such as cabin crew staff – who continue to go to work even if they are not able to do their jobs.
Harry Hohmeister, the Chief Officer of Hub Management in Frankfurt said:
“It is not only that acute damage is occurring, but also in the mid-term booking numbers. We are, of course, noticing that customer behaviour is changing. On every strike day we will lose millions of euros.”
On Tuesday (November 22), Lufthansa lost a last-ditch attempt to halt the walkout.
It says the strike is about company strategy, more than pay, which is something trade unions are not allowed to discuss.
Lufthansa took the case to the labour court, claiming the unions were using the pay rise conflict to solve pension issues and to rally against a plan to extend its low-cost sector.
However, the court refused Lufthansa’s request for an injunction against the striking employees.
Joerg Handwerg, an Executive Board Member of the pilots’ union ‘Vereinigung Cockpit’ said:
“We would like to fly, but we also will not stop our union duties.”
More than 215,000 passengers have been affected.
Joern Mueller has had his travel plans disrupted.
“What annoys me the most is that everything is so spontaneous, you can’t make any plans,” he said. “Notice such as, for example, ‘In three days we will cancel this and this flight,’ is not being given, rather from hour-to-hour basically passengers are being told they now cannot fly.”
Lufthansa says it has been giving 24-hour notice of cancelled flights.
Passenger Barbara Clingan was also affected:
“Now my patience is slowly ending. I’ve been flying for years, but this is unbelievable. No, no more understanding.”
It’s Lufthansa’s 14th strike in a two-and-a-half year long pay dispute with the airline unions. Critics of the 22 percent demanded pay increase say other company employees have taken cuts pilots are refusing to accept.
Lufthansa has offered a 2.5 percent rise.
Pilots say they haven’t had a wage increase in five years, however the company says there is an agreement already in place for an annual rise in salary of three percent for pilots.