Lufthansa pilots threaten more strikes as long haul hit

Tue Oct 21, 2014 8:07am EDT
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By Peter Maushagen and Victoria Bryan

FRANKFURT/BERLIN (Reuters) - Lufthansa pilots threatened to call further strikes this week after the latest stoppage in a dispute over retirement benefits grounded two-thirds of its flights on Tuesday.

Pilots began a strike at lunchtime on Monday on short haul flights and widened that to include lucrative long haul routes on Tuesday in a protest scheduled to end only late in the evening.

"We explicitly do not rule out further strikes this week if Lufthansa doesn't budge," Markus Wahl, a board member at union Vereinigung Cockpit, told Reuters.

The walkout has affected 166,000 passengers and forced the carrier to cancel more than 1,500 flights.

At Frankfurt airport, Lufthansa's main hub and Europe's third largest airport, queues snaked back from check-in desks, and staff were handing out drinks and snacks to those waiting.

The row is over proposed changes to an early retirement scheme for pilots that was developed decades ago, when they had to stop work at the age of 55.

The pilots want new starters at Europe's largest airline by revenue to retain the option of retiring at 55 and still getting a proportion of their pay. Lufthansa says the system is obsolete as pilots may now legally work until the age of 65.

Under Lufthansa's proposals, pilots would still be able to retire early, but the age would gradually increase to 60 from 55.   Continued...

A barrier tape of German airline Lufthansa is seen at Munich airport October 20, 2014. REUTERS/Michaela Rehle