Lufthansa pilots' strike grounds 200,000 travellers

The two-day stoppage at the German airline has hit many flights to and from the UK

Click to follow
The Independent Travel

Thousands of British passengers have been grounded by a pilots’ strike at the German airline, Lufthansa.

The carrier has cancelled 876 flights on Wednesday, with a similar number likely to be grounded on Thursday, affecting around 200,000 passengers in total.

About 30 per cent of departures have been axed, though the UK appears to have been disproportionately affected. 

Most UK-Germany flights have been cancelled, including multiple departures from Heathrow, Birmingham, Manchester and Edinburgh to Frankfurt - the airline's main hub. Some to Munich have also been grounded. 

The long-running dispute is over a pay claim. The pilots’ union Vereinigung Cockpit (VC) says that its members' salaries have lagged behind over the past five years, even though Lufthansa is now making healthy profits. It is demanding a 20 per cent rise to cover the years from 2012 to 2017. The airline has offered 2.5 per cent.

Pilots are also alarmed at Lufthansa’s plans to expand its Eurowings subsidiary, as part of a plan to counter low-cost airlines such as Ryanair and easyJet.

The union, whose name translates as “Cockpit Association”, initially called a strike of Lufthansa employees on 23 November. After the airline tried unsuccessfully to halt the walkout through the courts, the airline extended the strike to 24 November.

The airline called the strike “completely incomprehensible” and said: “Lufthansa regrets the inconvenience caused by the VC strike and will try to minimise the impact on its passengers.” It has tweeted an animated video to explain customers’ options.

Because many Lufthansa passengers are transferring, the chances of both flights operating normally is slightly less than half, at a 30 per cent rate of cancellation.

European rules on compensation do not apply when strikes cause cancellations, but the airline is obliged to provide meals and accommodation as necessary, as well as finding seats on other airlines.

The union, which has 9,600 members, said it “regrets the impact on the passengers, cabin crew and ground staff”.

A leading US frequent-flyer blogger, Ben Schlappig, said: “It’s a day ending in 'y', which means a European airline will go on strike.”

Repercussions from the strike are extending until the weekend, with some planes and crews out of position. Lufthansa has cancelled flights due in to Frankfurt on Saturday morning from airports such as Johannesburg, Luanda and Hong Kong.

Flights operated by other parts of the Lufthansa group, including Eurowings, Austrian Airlines, Swiss and Brussels Airlines, are operating normally.

Click here to view German tours and holidays, with Independent Holidays.

Comments