Lufthansa flights hit as crew start longest-ever strike
By Victoria Bryan and Peter Maushagen
BERLIN/FRANKFURT (Reuters) - German airline Lufthansa (LHAG.DE: Quote) canceled hundreds of flights on Friday and warned of more disruption on Saturday after a cabin crew union started a series of walkouts that could become the longest ever strike at the carrier.
On the first day of a planned week of protest over failed pension talks, flight attendants were instructed to strike at Frankfurt, Lufthansa's biggest hub, and Duesseldorf between 1300 and 2200 GMT (08:00 a.m. and 06:00 p.m. EST), affecting around 37,500 passengers.
That will be followed by walkouts on short-haul flights from Frankfurt and all flights from Duesseldorf between 0500 GMT and 2200 GMT (01:00 a.m. and 06:00 p.m. EST) on Saturday, the UFO union announced.
Lufthansa said it had canceled 290 flights planned for Friday including 15 long-haul departures, which are typically more profitable for carriers. Eight long-haul flights will still take off, it said.
The walkout comes after Lufthansa and the union failed to reach an agreement in a long-running row over early retirement benefits and pensions.
Lufthansa is trying to negotiate with various staff groups to bring down pension costs as part of a savings drive to allow it to compete better with low-cost rivals and wealthy Gulf carriers.
Should Lufthansa management not make concessions, the union will carry out a threat to stage more walkouts until Nov. 13, it said.
Equinet analyst Jochen Rothenbacher said strike costs could total 20 million euros ($21 million) a day, depending on the number of cancellations, giving a total of around 140 million euros should the union strike on seven days, as threatened. Continued...