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Lufthansa Braces for Next Strike After Pilots Halt Talks

Deutsche Lufthansa AG said it’s seeking to avert another pilots’ strike after the union representing the cockpit staff broke off negotiations about retirement benefits last week.

While the Frankfurt-based company is operationally prepared for a walkout by its pilots, the airline will strive to bring them back to the negotiation table and will send a letter to the Vereinigung Cockpit union today to break the impasse, said Bettina Volkens, Lufthansa’s head of personnel.

“We’re prepared to make compromises and don’t understand why negotiations were declared a failure,” Volkens said at a news conference in Frankfurt. “We want to avoid a conflict and resume talks.”

A fresh round of strikes by Lufthansa’s best-paid group of employees would preoccupy the company at a time when it seeks to rework its domestic and long-range operations to bring down costs and respond to increased competition from both low-cost carriers and airlines in the Middle East. The carrier cut its forecasts for this year and next in June as a capacity splurge at competitors hurts prices and its pilots resist cost cuts.

The main sticking point between the two sides revolves around bridge payments to pilots who traditionally retired as early as age 55, a remnant from past accords that Lufthansa says no longer represents the current status quo. The company has already signed accords with flight attendants and ground personnel, and Volkens said an agreement with pilots should cover similar principles.

Lufthansa may resort to a mediator to overcome the impasse, Volkens said. The airline has been given no indication when a strike may occur, though the company predicted that any action wouldn’t be a blanket strike across the entire network, but cover some main bases for a limited time only.

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