Lufthansa pilots begin strike

Lufthansa pilots began the first of two days of strike action yesterday in a long-running dispute over early retirement benefits and cost-cutting plans which shows no sign of ending.

Lufthansa pilots begin strike

The German airline is trying to cut costs and expand budget operations as it tries to compete with low-cost carriers such as Ryanair and easyJet in Europe and Gulf rivals such as Emirates.

However, attempts to renegotiate collective labour deals, including retirement benefits, have been resisted by pilots at union Vereinigung Cockpit (VC), which staged 10 strikes last year.

The strike, the second this year, affects short- and medium-haul operations at Lufthansa’s namesake brand and the carrier has cancelled 750 out of a scheduled 1,400 flights. Lufthansa cancelled 84 of its 153 long-haul flights planned for today, but said it would be able to operate all cargo flights.

Equinet analyst Jochen Rothenbacher estimates the latest strikes will cost the carrier around €15m a day in lost profit and said the dispute could last a long time.

“It’s very very important for Lufthansa to bring their costs down to a level at which they can continue to compete,” he said. “IAG has already done a good job of this.”

Lufthansa is not the only European carrier to have faced disputes with pilots over efforts to keep costs down — Air France-KLM and Norwegian Air Shuttle have been hit by costly strikes in recent months.

Air France-KLM scaled back budget expansion plans after a walkout by its pilots last year.

Lufthansa chief executive Carsten Spohr has vowed to stay firm in the dispute and has said Lufthansa will raise fleet and staff numbers at its main passenger operations only if employees agree to concessions.

Spohr has said Lufthansa is getting better at coping with the strikes.

For example, unit Austrian Airlines is using larger aircraft to take Lufthansa passengers, while its Cologne-based Germanwings unit, also unaffected by yesterday’s strike, has taken on some Frankfurt flights.

A spokesman for VC said it wanted Lufthansa to show more willingness to compromise. The pilots also want Lufthansa to agree to mediation covering early retirement benefits and other outstanding pay and cost-cutting issues, but the carrier has rejected this.

Lufthansa has called on VC to return to negotiations, but the union said no date had yet been set for talks.

Reuters

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