October 20, 2014 / 4:18 AM / 4 years ago

Pilots extend Lufthansa strikes to long-haul flights

A man stands at a counter next to the logo of German airlines Lufthansa at the Cologne-Bonn airport October 20, 2014. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - German pilots union VC on Monday widened its strike at Lufthansa (LHAG.DE) to include long-haul flights on Tuesday, having previously targeted only the carrier’s short and medium-haul routes on Monday and Tuesday.

The walkout affecting long-haul flights, scheduled from 12 midnight-5:59 p.m. EDT, adds weight to the eighth strike action taken by pilots against Lufthansa this year in a drawn-out dispute over retirement benefits.

Lufthansa on Sunday canceled 1,450 flights after the pilots union called for a strike on Monday and Tuesday, adding to travelers’ misery in Germany after millions were left stranded by a weekend-long train drivers’ stoppage.

Both pilots’ and train drivers’ strikes hit at the start of half-term holidays in nearly half of Germany’s 16 federal states.

The initial schedule for the strike at Lufthansa was for 7:00 a.m. EDT on Monday until 5:59 p.m. EDT on Tuesday.

DZ Bank analyst Dirk Schlamp estimated the series of eight strikes would cut Lufthansa’s earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) by 80-90 million euros ($102-115 million) this year.

“A solution, however, is not yet apparent. Therefore, further strikes are possible,” Schlamp said.

The strikes come as the national airline is trying to expand low-cost operations that will allow it to compete more effectively with budget carriers such as Ryanair (RYA.I) and easyJet (EZJ.L) 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.

Reporting by Ludwig Burger; Editing by Georgina Prodhan

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