Lufthansa Loses Bid to Block Strike as Flights Canceled

Deutsche Lufthansa strike

A cabin crew member wears a pin badge with the word strike and the Independent Flight Attendant Organisation (UFO) cabin crew union logo on her uniform during industrial action outside Frankfurt Airport, in Frankfurt, on Friday, Nov. 6, 2015.

Photographer: Martin Leissl/Bloomberg
  • Walkout by flight attendants leads to 931 cancellations
  • Strike starting Wednesday targets flights at German hubs

Deutsche Lufthansa AG lost a court bid to stop a strike by flight attendants, forcing the German carrier to cancel 931 flights scheduled for Wednesday and raising the stakes in a labor dispute that has already led to a record series of walkouts by cabin crew.

A labor court in Darmstadt ruled early Wednesday that the UFO flight attendants union could move forward with a three-day strike at Lufthansa’s hubs in Frankfurt and Munich. Whether the union can also walk out in Dusseldorf, as it had planned, remains open after the airline asked a second court to extend an injunction through Friday that it issued earlier stopping a previous strike in that city.

Prior to the latest ruling, the airline canceled Wednesday flights at the three hubs, impacting almost 100,000 customers, after the UFO cabin crew union called for three days of strikes through Friday and said it was considering lengthening the walkout, which began last week.

Lufthansa “continues to hold the position that the strike demands have not been defined clearly enough,” the Cologne-based company said in an e-mailed statement. “Lufthansa will decide today on further steps.” The company hadn’t filed an appeal as of 8:55 a.m., according to the Frankfurt labor appeals court.

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Labor leaders are battling against Lufthansa’s efforts to restructure to compete with low-cost rivals such as Ryanair Holdings Plc and EasyJet Plc. The airline’s strategy hinges on development of its Eurowings division into a low-cost arm, raising concerns among mainline employees. Lufthansa’s latest offer to UFO included a one-time payment of 3,000 euros ($3,220) per employee and acceptance of the union’s demands on early retirements, but only for current workers, and the carrier said it will scale back flights, a proposal that UFO called a “provocation.”

The Dusseldorf court order, which said the union hadn’t adequately specified its demands before calling the strike, can be appealed. While the Dusseldorf ruling only covered a walkout on Tuesday, Lufthansa asked the judge to also block the union from continuing the strike in the coming days from that location. The tribunal has scheduled a hearing on the matter for Wednesday afternoon.

Lufthansa shares rose 0.3 percent to 13.42 euros, valuing the company at 6.3 billion euros ($6.8 billion).

Seeking Injunctions

The airline had been seeking the injunctions at the two German labor courts to prevent more walkouts after stoppages for four of the past five days, offering to resolve the dispute through arbitration. Lufthansa has already dropped 1,900 flights since the strikes began Nov. 6.

Lufthansa has declined to estimate how much the flight attendants’ strike has cost. In a parallel dispute with pilots, 12,800 cancellations over 18 months through September amounted to a burden of 352 million euros. Walkouts by pilots ended when a German court ruled in September that the moves marked an illegal effort by the Vereinigung Cockpit union to fight corporate strategy.

Vereinigung Cockpit plans to file an appeal at the Constitutional Court, Germany’s top court, over the September ruling. The strike that was halted wasn’t related to any issue outside of early-retirement benefits, the union said.

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