Lufthansa long-haul routes to be hit by Saturday strike

Fri Mar 20, 2015 2:53pm EDT
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By Maria Sheahan

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Lufthansa (LHAG.DE: Quote) canceled almost half of its lucrative long-haul flights scheduled for Saturday as pilots planned a fourth straight day of walkouts in a protracted row over early retirement benefits and cost cuts.

Lufthansa wants to cut spending to levels nearer those of its rivals. It is squeezed by budget carriers Ryanair (RYA.I: Quote) and easyJet (EZJ.L: Quote) on European routes and by airlines such as Turkish (THYAO.IS: Quote) and Emirates [EMIRA.UL] on long-haul flights.

Strikes cost it more than 200 million euros ($214 million) in lost operating profit last year, and losses are mounting again as pilots prepare for their 15th walkout since last April.

But Germany's largest airline said in a letter to customers published on Friday it would not agree to any deal that would "threaten its ability to survive".

Lufthansa canceled 74 of a total 160 long-haul connections scheduled for Saturday, affecting about 20,000 passengers. It also said it was scrapping almost 60 percent of cargo flights.

On Friday, it had canceled 700 short and medium-distance flights, about half the scheduled services at its flagship carrier. It scrapped another 90 flights because of a separate strike by air traffic controllers in Italy.

Travelers also faced further disruption due to a walkout by Acciona (ANA.MC: Quote) airport service workers in Frankfurt, the heart of Germany's financial industry.

Strikes in Germany are relatively rare, with employers and larger unions usually able to resolve their differences at the negotiating table.   Continued...

Passengers check-in during a pilots' strike of German flagship carrier Lufthansa at Munich's airport March 18, 2015. REUTERS/Michaela Rehle