Deutsche Lufthansa AG, Europe’s second-largest airline, has canceled 30 percent of flights scheduled for March 27 as a walkout by trade unions demanding higher pay at German airports grounds part of its fleet.
The carrier has listed 537 flights as canceled on its website for tomorrow, out of a schedule to operate about 1,800 connections on a Thursday. It also scrapped 50 operations scheduled for today and some for March 28.
The Ver.di union is taking protests for higher wages for about 2.1 million employees in Germany’s public sector to airports, with strikes at seven of the country’s largest airfields. The union demands 3.5 percent higher pay, plus a raise of 100 euros ($138) per month. Frankfurt and Munich, Lufthansa’s main German hubs, both face disruptions, and the union said it expects about 1,400 employees in Frankfurt, Europe’s third-largest hub, to participate.
“Again a conflict over tariffs is fought at the expense of passengers,” Michael Hoppe, general secretary of the Board of Airline Representatives in Germany, said in a statement. “We have no understanding for this reckless strike. It seeks greatest possible publicity and exclusively hurts third parties not involved.”
Last month, security personnel striking for higher pay in a separate conflict had Frankfurt’s airport operator lock out departing passengers as safety checkpoints couldn’t operate, followed by disruptions caused by several days of air traffic controllers striking in some European countries.
The February walkout reduced Lufthansa’s operating profit by about 3 million euros, the company has said. It pared February passenger growth in Frankfurt by about one-third to 1.8 percent, Fraport Chief Executive Officer Stefan Schulte said.
The Ver.di union is also staging strikes at hospitals, child care, public transport and at waste disposal services across the country after two rounds of negotiations had not yet lead to an agreement.
At Frankfurt airport, ground- and baggage handling as well as maintenance and repair activities will be affected. Airport firefighters will maintain an emergency service, the union has said, preventing a shutdown of the hub.
Airports in Cologne, Dusseldorf, Hamburg, Hanover and Stuttgart are also affected. Operators are advising travelers to check the status of their flights before heading to the airport, and Lufthansa is offering free re-booking of flights.
Lufthansa is also facing a walkout by its pilots, which have voted in favor of a strike in a dispute over pay and retirement benefits after 2 years of negotiations. A walkout may come at any time, the pilots’ union has said.