Germany: Lufthansa faces strike, hundreds of flights canceled

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Lufthansa check-in counters at Frankfurt airport are deserted November 7, 2019 day of strike at the airline (dpa / Silas Stein)

The German airline Lufthansa faces from Thursday to a cabin crew strike, which forced the company to cancel a total of 1,300 flights over two days, affecting 180,000 passengers.

The work stoppage at the UFO union's appeal began at 2300 GMT on Wednesday and is expected to last until 2300 GMT on Friday. 700 flights were removed Thursday and 600 must be removed on Friday, Lufthansa said Wednesday.

In Frankfurt, the biggest airport in the country, the situation was calm, according to a spokesman quoted by the German agency DPA, Lufthansa informed passengers and advised those concerned by cancellations not to go to the airport.

In Munich, there are no queues in front of the yellow windows of the company. "It's good that there are still unions that defend something, but 48 hours is long," said a passenger, Holger Hilken. "The cabin crew is angry with the passengers," says another, Volker Hinterberge.

On Sunday, October 20, UFO had already organized a strike in four subsidiaries of the Lufthansa group, resulting in a hundred or so flight cancellations. But the main company was not targeted: Lufthansa had granted a 2% increase in wages, more than UFO demanded.

The union, however, decided to launch this new social movement because of "Lufthansa's persistent refusal to negotiate" on its other demands, he said in a statement.

– Surprise Negotiations –

But UFO accepted Thursday an unexpected offer from boss Carsten Spohr, who said he was ready to discuss "in the interest of our customers and employees" for mediation, with preliminary meetings this weekend.


An airplane takes off from Hanover airport on November 7, 2019 (dpa / Sina Schuldt)

Lufthansa has regularly challenged the legitimacy of the union to represent employees. An attempt to prevent the strike was dismissed Thursday at first instance and on appeal by the Frankfurt labor court.

For the UFO union, weakened by a permanent conflict at its head, this strike is also a test of its ability to mobilize while a German court is due to consider next April its legitimacy to represent employees, questioned by Lufthansa .

"We have decided to resume negotiations" and "we want to solve the legal problems with UFO this weekend in a confidential setting" for a more formal mediation, said Spohr at a press conference .

The union, which remains the majority of the approximately 21,000 employees working in the cabins, according to the daily Handelsblatt, accepted the invitation without shortening the strike.

"If it does not work, we will have to announce further strikes on Monday," said UFO spokeswoman Nicoley Baublies, quoted by DPA.

– Brussels Airlines pessimistic –

Lufthansa said that its subsidiaries (Eurowings, Germanwings, Sunexpress, Lufthansa Cityline, SWISS, Edelweiss, Austrian Airlines, Air Dolomiti and Brussels Airlines) were not affected by the strike.

Lufthansa also offers its customers affected by the strike the opportunity to book a flight with a group company without delay and free of charge within the next ten days.

German domestic routes may use Deutsche Bahn whether or not their flights are canceled.

The strike should cost between 10 and 20 million euros per day at least, said the financial director, Ulrik Svensson.

Lufthansa also announced Thursday its operating income decline in the third quarter under the effect of rising fuel prices. It provides for additional savings measures, particularly at its subsidiary Austrian Airlines, where 700 to 800 jobs will be cut by 2021.

Brussels Airlines, another of its subsidiaries, said Thursday that the bankruptcy of the tour operator Thomas Cook would have a negative impact of 12 million euros on its balance sheet in 2019, which should cause his accounts in the red, according to a spokesperson questioned by AFP. The company is also committed to a plan to save 160 million euros by 2022, unveiled Thursday to unions.

ys-bur-cfe / nas

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