Travel Chaos: Lufthansa Pilots Start Massive Four-Day Strike

A four-day pilots' strike at German national airline Lufthansa began on Monday and is causing massive disruption for travellers, with 800 flights expected to be cancelled per day. Lufthansa's management is seeking a court injunction to stop the strike.

Grounded by the pilots' strike -- Lufthansa jets at Frankfurt airport on Monday. Zoom
DPA

Grounded by the pilots' strike -- Lufthansa jets at Frankfurt airport on Monday.

Pilots at German national airline Deutsche Lufthansa began a four-day strike on Monday that is leading to massive disruption with some 800 flights due to be cancelled on Monday alone, around two thirds of all scheduled flights, the airline said.

The strike by 4,000 pilots is the largest in German aviation history and has caused chaos at Frankfurt, Munich, Hamburg, Düsseldorf and Berlin airports.

The airline's management applied for a court injunction on Monday to try to force the pilots to return to work. A spokeswoman for the airline said the strike was having a disproportionate impact and that the management had a responsibility to prevent damage to the firm, its staff and its shareholders.

The Frankfurt labour court will consider Lufthansa's request at a hearing on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. CET (4.30 p.m. GMT). Lufthansa is claiming that the strike is in breach of rules governing labor relations, the court said.

The pilots are striking over demands for job guarantees because they fear Lufthansa plans to cut staff costs by shifting jobs to foreign subsidiaries such as Brussels Airlines, Austrian Airlines or Lufthansa Italia, where salaries are lower.

Switch to Trains

They said they were prepared to drop a demand for a 6.4 percent pay raise in return for guarantees, but the management has rejected the offer and says the union is demanding an undue influence on managerial decisions.

Passengers are being rebooked on flights operated by rivals and Lufthansa subsidiaries, or have been forced to switch to trains for domestic travel.

Lufthansa has said the strike will cost it about €100 million ($135 million) in cash, in addition to lost ticket sales and damage to its reputation. The strike will affect tens of thousands of passengers each day. Lufthansa transports some 150,000 people on an average working day.

One third of all flights will be cancelled at Lufthansa's low-cost unit Germanwings. Its regional partners Cityline or Eurowings, which operate on less busy domestic and short-haul European routes, are not facing strike action.

A Lufthansa spokesman told Deutschlandfunk radio on Monday: "Responsibility for all the impact -- on customers, on the future of the company and on Germany as economic location -- rests solely with the union."

'You Can Call That Blackmail'

Industry leaders have warned that the strike, which also affects Lufthansa's cargo operations, will damage the economy which is tentatively recovering from its worst downturn since World War II.

The head of the pilot's union Cockpit, Winfried Stricher, defended the decision to strike. "If Lufthansa goes on buying more airlines, for example in Eastern Europe, we'll all be flying at dumping wages soon," Stricher told SPIEGEL ONLINE.

"The management keeps signalling to us that it will relocate work abroad if no savings are made. You can call that blackmail."

Rival British Airways may also be facing a strike. A strike ballot by cabin crew comes to an end on Monday.

Passengers can find information about daily flight schedules during the strike here. In addition, Lufthansa has set up a free passenger hotline at 0800-850-6070. Germanwings passengers can called 0800-664-4935 or visit this Web page for scheduling information.

cro -- with wire reports

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