Lufthansa says flights escape strike

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The Independent Online

A strike by Lufthansa ground and cabin staff over pay has so far barely disrupted flights to and from German airports, the airline said today.

Tens of thousands of air passengers had faced travel chaos at the height of the holiday season due to walkouts by up to 5,000 members of the Verdi services union.

The strike, which officially started at midnight (2200 GMT on Sunday) at some of Germany's largest airports, including international hubs Frankfurt and Hamburg, threatened to hit areas from catering and cargo to maintenance and repairs.

"Almost 100 per cent of our flights are flying on time," Lufthansa spokesman Klaus Walther told ZDF TV. Television pictures showed planes taking off in rapid succession and departure boards indicating only minor delays.

Lufthansa had sought to limit the impact of the strike by reassigning non-striking staff to other tasks.

Disruption could grow during the day, however, and some analysts have put the cost of the strike at about €5m (£3.96m) per day for Lufthansa, Europe's second biggest airline by passenger numbers.

Verdi said the aim of the strike was to hurt the company rather than to cause a large number of cancellations.

"Our strike is going very well," Verdi negotiator Erhard Ott told ZDF, saying workers in Frankfurt, Munich, Cologne, Hanover and other cities had downed tools.

Cargo, maintenance and catering had been hit, he said.

"The effects of the strike are likely to grow in the course of the day and in coming days," added Ott.

Verdi, which represents 52,000 air industry workers, wants a 9.8 per cent pay rise for one year. Lufthansa is offering 6.7 per cent over 21 months and a one-off payment.

Some 91 per cent of union members backed the strike in a ballot.

Other unions have said they will not join in, however, among them the UFO union, which claims to be the main union for cabin crew and is demanding a 15 per cent pay rise for its members.

Last week, Lufthansa was forced to cancel almost 1,000 regional flights at its Eurowings and CityLine subsidiaries after pilots walked out in a separate pay dispute.

Several German unions are seeking bigger wage deals after restraint in recent years, as inflation spikes in Europe's biggest economy.