Pilot walkouts ground nearly 1,000 Lufthansa flights


BERLIN – German flag carrier Lufthansa was forced Tuesday to cancel nearly 1,000 flights due to warning strikes by pilots working for two of its units, an airline spokeswoman said.

She said 464 of 725 scheduled flights Tuesday on Lufthansa’s Eurowings and Cityline carriers would remain grounded and another 525 flights on Wednesday, adding that both domestic and European destinations were affected.

“The company is making an effort to book affected passengers on other flights or Deutsche Bahn trains,” she said.

She said she was unable to estimate how many passengers were affected.

Pilots’ union Cockpit had called the warning strikes due to a breakdown in salary talks with management.

Cockpit said all of Germany’s major airports served by Eurowings and Cityline were affected, including Frankfurt, Munich, Dusseldorf and Berlin’s Tegel airport.

The walkouts began at midday Tuesday and were to continue until Wednesday at midnight.

Meanwhile the German division of British no-frills airline easyJet said it hoped to cash in if Lufthansa is hit by lengthy strikes.

“A strike at Lufthansa would of course be just fine by us,” unit chief John Kohlsaat told Tuesday’s edition of the daily Berliner Zeitung.

“Then we could introduce business clients, who normally do not fly with us, to our business services. It is an opportunity for us to win new clients. So we are looking forward to the Lufthansa strike.”

EasyJet is a direct competitor with Lufthansa on many European routes.

Lufthansa staff has threatened walkouts due to a deadlock in salary talks between management and the service sector union Verdi.

Verdi members have until Thursday to vote for work stoppages, which would hit Lufthansa during the lucrative summer holiday season.

The union is seeking a 9.8-per cent pay rise for workers and a bigger share of the airline’s profits. It has already staged a series of warning strikes.

Lufthansa said last month that it expected to meet its operating profit target this year despite skyrocketing fuel costs.