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Lufthansa’s Pilot Union Says Walkouts Could Resume Over Weekend

Deutsche Lufthansa AG could face a further round of strikes commencing this weekend, extending a protest over restructuring plans that led to the scrapping of 70 percent of flights at discount unit Germanwings yesterday.

A fresh walkout starting as early as tomorrow potentially affecting Lufthansa’s main operation, its cargo unit and Germanwings can’t be ruled out as employees await an improved offer on retirement terms, pilot union Vereinigung Cockpit said.

Europe’s second-biggest airline is shifting short-haul routes outside its Frankfurt and Munich hubs to Germanwings to help cut costs and lift operating profit to 2.65 billion euros ($3.5 billion) by next year. The company said in May it plans to change the legal form of operations in eight German cities employing 1,500 people, while at the main Lufthansa brand the key issue concerns bridge payments to pilots who have retired as early as 55, something Lufthansa says is no longer viable.

Vereinigung Cockpit is awaiting an “improved” offer from the airline and would be willing to return to negotiations if one were forthcoming, spokesman Markus Wahl said yesterday, adding that any strike would be announced a day in advance.

Lufthansa shares fell 1.4 percent to 13.18 euros in Frankfurt yesterday, taking their decline this 15 percent and valuing the Cologned-based carrier at 6.07 billion euros.

Germanwings Disruption

Lufthansa said yesterday it wasn’t aware of any strike announcement and appealed to the union to resume consultations.

“We’re ready to talk and find a compromise,” spokesman Thomas Jachnow said by telephone. “Conflicts can’t be solved by strikes, only at the negotiating table.”

Some 15,000 passengers at the Germanwings division were impacted by the grounding of 116 flights yesterday during a walkout that ran from 6 a.m. until noon. Delays persisted into the afternoon as pilots begin reporting for work.

A return to strike action at the main brand could threaten a repeat of 3,800 flight cancellations over three days in April when pilots staged the most disruptive walkout in Lufthansa’s history. The carrier cut its forecasts for this year and next in June as crews resisted cuts and a capacity boost hit prices.

Air France’s SNPL pilots union is also considering a strike next month. The walkout, which would take place between Sept. 15 and Sept. 22, is in support of a single contract for pilots, including those at the low-cost Transavia and Hop! arms.

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