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Lufthansa
A Lufthansa passenger plane is on the apron at Frankfurt Airport. © Boris Roessler/dpa/archive image

The first strike after Corona hit Lufthansa and its passengers hard in the middle of the holidays. After the ground staff has made the start, another professional group could soon follow.

Frankfurt/Main – Because of the threatened Verdi warning strike, Lufthansa has canceled almost its entire flight schedule for Wednesday (July 27). According to the company, the nationwide strike by ground staff is forcing 678 flights in Frankfurt and 345 flights in Munich to ground. Around 144,000 passengers are affected in the middle of the holiday season, and by no means all of them could be rebooked because the planes are already full in the following days. According to Lufthansa, at least 47 connections were canceled on Tuesday, which affected the travel plans of almost 7,500 passengers. The airline fears effects until Friday, the last day of school before the summer holidays in Bavaria.

Lufthansa strongly advised passengers who did not receive a rebooking offer not to come to the airports. Because of the strike, “only a few or no” service counters were open there. Transfer passengers without a connecting flight should not fly to the German hubs. There is a risk that guests will not be able to travel there for several hours or days. According to the changed EU legislation, passengers are likely to be entitled to reimbursements and compensation payments, since Lufthansa can no longer invoke extraordinary circumstances in the event of a strike by its own people. Board member Harry Hohmeister criticized Verdi harshly in the “Bild” newspaper: “The trade union destroys vacation dreams with their strike during the peak travel season. This is extremely bitter and frustrating.”

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According to Verdi, various Lufthansa companies at the hubs in Frankfurt and Munich as well as in Düsseldorf, Hamburg, Berlin, Bremen, Hanover, Stuttgart and Cologne will be on strike from 3.45 a.m. on Wednesday. Very different groups of employees are called upon, such as counter staff, aircraft technicians or the drivers of the huge tow tractors that push aircraft into the correct positions at the airport. Without these services, the jets cannot take off any more than they do without pilots or cabin crew. The pilots of the parent company are currently voting in parallel on unlimited strikes.

At the decentralized airports, only the Lufthansa flights to and from Munich and Frankfurt are canceled, as a spokesman explained. In addition to the 1023 canceled flights with an LH flight number, there may be other connections from group companies such as Swiss, Austrian or Air Dolomiti, as they are handled at the hubs by Lufthansa ground staff. The direct flight subsidiary Eurowings, which is not on strike, assumes that flight operations will be largely normal throughout the network. A spokesman said on Tuesday in Cologne that sufficient spare capacity had also been secured at the largest location in Düsseldorf to position and tow the aircraft.

According to its own statements, the holiday airline Condor has not had to cancel any flights so far. Passengers who are actually supposed to be arriving on Lufthansa flights are asked to switch to the train. One does not work with Lufthansa companies on the ground, said a Condor spokeswoman.

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The walkout is expected to last until 6 a.m. Thursday. Verdi has called for rallies at Frankfurt, Hamburg and Munich airports. A high turnout is expected, said Verdi strike leader Marvin Raschinsky.

The first strike at Lufthansa after the Corona shock comes against the background of a partially chaotic restart in the industry. Personnel bottlenecks and a strong demand for vacations have already led to considerable handling problems this summer without any strikes. Verdi blames mismanagement and excessive staff cuts at airports and airlines for this. The Lufthansa airline boss Jens Ritter, on the other hand, sees the progress made in the past few weeks with the strike in question. The walkout will burden customers and staff beyond the day of the strike, he wrote on the Linkedin platform.

Lufthansa and Verdi only discussed the future salaries and working conditions of the around 20,000 ground workers in two rounds. A third date is already for the 3./4. Agreed in Frankfurt in August. Lufthansa HR Director Michael Niggemann criticized the union’s surprisingly tough approach: “The early escalation after just two days of negotiations in what has been a constructive round of collective bargaining is causing enormous damage. This applies above all to our passengers during the peak travel season. And it places an additional heavy burden on our employees in what is already a difficult phase in air traffic.”

According to its own information, Lufthansa has offered a two-stage flat-rate salary increase of a total of 250 euros for a period of 18 months, which will be accompanied by a profit-related increase of two percent from July next year. With a monthly basic salary of 3,000 euros, this would result in an increase of nine to eleven percent, the company calculated. Verdi negotiator Christine Behle described the example as “prettily calculated”. For other salary ranges, the increase is only around four percent and, given the currently high inflation, this means real wage losses for employees. The union demands 9.5 percent more money in the wage tables for a twelve-month term, but at least 350 euros. dpa

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