Deutsche Lufthansa AG, Europe’s second-largest airline, was forced to call off more than half of it flights today at Frankfurt airport as its cabin crew went on an eight-hour strike. The strike disrupted 200 flights, but also stranded thousands of passengers at Frankfurt airport. Flight attendants’ union warned of more strikes and stoppages unless the company gives in to Lufthansa Airlines cabin crew’s demands.
200 cancellations at Frankfurt airport
According to data, nearly 207 cancellations occurred because of the strike started by Unabhaengige Flugbegleiter Organisation. Cancellations mainly affected routes within Europe; takeoffs from U.S cities including Boston, New York and Seattle; Tel Aviv and Chennai, India, were halted. The German airline cancelled primarily short- and medium- haul flights. According to Klaus Gorny, a spokesman for Lufthansa Airlines, the airline scheduled 360 flights during strike’s time frame.
The strike of Lufthansa airlines cabin crew followed the failure of 13 months of negotiations with the trade union UFO. UFO, Unabhaengige Flugbegleiter Organisation, represents approximately two-thirds of 19,000 Lufthansa cabin crew. UFO’s representatives did not anathematize the possibility of future stoppages over the weekend. Moreover they also admitted that they were likely to call for industrial action at other airports. Nicoley Baublies, UFO head, said: “It depends a lot on what Lufthansa's response is." He also warned Lufthansa Airlines not to put pressure on workers to break the strike at Frankfurt airport.
The UFO union wants a 5 percent pay rise and guarantees that the airline will not outsource jobs using more temporary workers. The rise of 5 percent for more than 18,000 cabin crew workers was not accepted by Lufthansa officials. Instead airlines management offers a 3.5 percent rise. The spokesman for Lufthansa accused the UFO union of putting demands “on the back of the customers”. He also asked them to return to the table and continue negotiations.
Other issues include the union’s strong opposition to airline’s demand that those from Lufthansa crew cabin assigned to new airport in Berlin will be working more hours for the same salary. Moreover the possibility of transferring Lufthansa flight attendants to company’s partner budget airline with cheaper contracts is not acceptable for the UFO union.
The strike at Frankfurt airport is said to be just the beginning of what Lufthansa will have to face unless it meets UFO union’s demands.
Cost cuts at Lufthansa
Lufthansa, similarlly to other global airlines, is struggling with fuel prices, weak demand from passengers, low-cost carriers such as Ryanair and Wizz Air, and economic slowdown, especially so visible in Europe.
Lufthansa operates approximately 1,850 flights per day, mainly from Frankfurt and Munich. The airline has recently ordered a new aircraft for 17 billion euros ($21.3 billion) and because of that it has to generate more profit to pay for it. At the same time Lufthansa attempts to cut approximately €1.5 billion from its costs by the end of 2014. In addition, Lufthansa’s officials have informed that the airline is to cut 3,500 jobs.