Lufthansa cancels flights due to pilots strike; train stoppage strands millions

Sun Oct 19, 2014 5:03pm EDT
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By Harro Ten Wolde and Madeline Chambers

FRANKFURT/BERLIN (Reuters) - German airline Lufthansa (LHAG.DE: Quote) canceled 1,450 flights after a pilots union called for a strike on Monday and Tuesday, adding to travelers' misery after millions were left stranded by a weekend-long train drivers' stoppage.

Lufthansa said late on Sunday more than 200,000 passengers and two thirds of its scheduled flights - short and mid-length services, mostly within Europe - would be affected by the strike.

Both the pilots' and train drivers' strikes hit at the start of a week-long, half-term holidays in nearly half of Germany's 16 federal states.

"The Vereinigung Cockpit (pilots union) is trying to turn Germany into a standstill nation," the airline said earlier on Sunday.

The union said on Sunday the strike over an early retirement scheme dispute would last from 1100 GMT (0700 EDT) on Monday until 2159 GMT (1759 EDT) on Tuesday. Lufthansa's low-cost unit Germanwings is not affected.

If it goes ahead it will be the eighth this year at Lufthansa.

The strikes are hampering the national airline in its efforts to expand low-cost operations that will allow them to compete more effectively with budget carriers such as Ryanair and easyJet on short-haul European routes.

VC, representing about 5,400 Lufthansa pilots, is fighting to keep a scheme that allows pilots to retire at the age of 55 and still receive up to 60 percent of their pay before regular pension payments start at 65. The union has proposed a plan to cover the costs of the scheme.   Continued...

Lufthansa aircrafts stand on the tarmac during a strike at Frankfurt airport, September 30, 2014.  REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski