Lufthansa cancels hundreds of flights as pilots strike to pay

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FRANKFURT, Sept 2 (Reuters) – Lufthansa (LHAG.DE) pilots went on strike on Friday, forcing the German airline to cancel hundreds of flights, stranding holidaymakers.

The airline said it canceled around 800 flights at its main bases in Frankfurt and Munich on Friday, affecting 130,000 passengers, and said it was working hard to minimize the impact of the strike.

The Vereinigung Cockpit (VC) union had called on more than 5,000 Lufthansa pilots to stage a 24-hour strike, saying the latest round of wage negotiations had failed.

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Strikes and staff shortages have already forced several airlines, including Lufthansa, to cancel thousands of flights this summer, leading to long queues at major airports, frustrating people eager to start traveling again after the lockdowns. COVID-19.

Passenger Liane Dickson was due to fly to Amsterdam from Johannesburg via Frankfurt, but the second leg of her flight was canceled before she left South Africa.

‘It is now 4pm later and we have no email as to why it happened, what should we do next,’ she said at Frankfurt airport.

“Yesterday at Johannesburg airport it was chaos because people didn’t know if they should check in their bags in Amsterdam or Frankfurt.

The VC union is demanding a 5.5% pay rise this year and automatic inflation compensation thereafter, as well as better conditions for entry-level pilots.

Lufthansa said the VC demands would increase its payroll costs by 40%, or about 900 million euros ($899 million) over the next two years.

The airline offered a total of 900 euros ($901.35) more in base salary per month in two stages over an 18-month period, which it said would result in a salary increase of more than 18%. for entry-level jobs and an additional 5% for senior positions.

The VC demands also come amid soaring energy and food prices, with German inflation hitting its highest level in nearly 50 years in August. Read more

“I don’t think this (strike) is appropriate. It’s the main travel season and it’s on a very short notice,” said Andrea Buchloh-Adler, at Frankfurt Airport. “Pilots are not low income. They are certainly not being hit as hard by the energy crisis and inflation as many others who do their jobs every day.”

Lufthansa management last month reached a pay deal with ground staff, averting further walkouts after a strike forced it to cancel more than 1,000 flights.

Lufthansa is also facing possible walkouts from pilots at subsidiary Eurowings, who voted to go on strike but are due to hold a series of talks with management next week.

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Additional reporting by Ilona Wissenbach; Written by Maria Sheahan; Editing by Bradley Perrett, Miranda Murray and Jane Merriman

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