Partial Closure: Chaos as Strikes Ground Planes at Frankfurt Airport

Lufthansa flight attendants walked off the job for eight hours on Friday resulting in over 200 flight cancellations and a temporary ban on incoming flights into Germany's biggest airport. The labor dispute will likely result in more strikes soon.

Lufthansa planes were grounded on Friday in Frankfurt. Zoom
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Lufthansa planes were grounded on Friday in Frankfurt.

It was but a temporary warning strike. But the eight-hour walkout of Lufthansa flight attendants at the Frankfurt airport on Friday caused chaos far beyond the German air hub. Lufthansa was forced to cancel more than 200 flights, stranded passengers filled Frankfurt's main terminal and, shortly after the strike began, all European flights bound for Frankfurt were either cancelled or redirected to other airports.

"It is chaos here at the airport," a spokesperson for the union representing the flight attendants said. "They don't know what to do with all of the airports. At the moment, all flights are cancelled."

The mass cancellations meant that the airport quickly ran out of gates for incoming flights, necessitating the temporary partial airport closure. The strike came to an end as planned at 1 p.m. CET, but it will be some time before air traffic returns to normal at the airport, Germany's biggest.

Some International Flights Cancelled

Some 18,000 Lufthansa cabin crew workers represented by the union UFO are demanding a 5 percent pay hike whereas the airline is only offering them 3.5 percent. In addition, Lufthansa would like to introduce lower paying contracts at the new airport in Berlin, once it opens. Germany's flag carrier airline is also planning to introduce a budget airline for flights in Germany and Europe and hopes to pay flight attendants working for that carrier less. In all, Lufthansa is trying to cut costs by some €1.5 billion ($1.9 billion) by the end of 2014 in order to return to profitability.

Flights that were already in the air at the time the airport was closed to new arrivals will still be allowed to land in Frankfurt. But even international flights, including some originating in Boston, New York and Seattle, were cancelled as a result of the strike.

Talks between UFO and Lufthansa had been ongoing for over a year before they recently broke down. The union said that it would stage additional strikes in the near future, possibly as early as Saturday. Officials promised they would give a warning of at least six hours before any new walkout.

cgh -- with wire reports

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