Lufthansa Cargo Pilots Strike Draws Blank as Planes Fly

Deutsche Lufthansa AG’s air-freight unit said it will avoid disruptions from a Vereinigung Cockpit pilots union strike tomorrow and Oct. 9 by rescheduling takeoffs to hours outside the walkout times.

The Lufthansa Cargo division has 21 full freighter services scheduled from Frankfurt for the two days affected, and will operate all of them by moving two flights forward, the airline said in a statement today.

The strike is the second in less than a month that Lufthansa has responded to by rearranging schedules to maintain all flights. Vereinigung Cockpit canceled a planned walkout targeting Lufthansa’s long-haul passenger operations on Sept. 16 after the airline shifted flight times to enable all routes to be served as planned for the day.

The union wants to preserve benefits paid for by Cologne, Germany-based Lufthansa for pilots withdrawing from duty before the age of government-pension eligibility. Lufthansa canceled that agreement last year, and is pushing to raise the earliest retirement age to 60 years from 55, and the average retirement age to 61 years from just under 59.

The airline’s plan would cut costs by reducing the time that the company pays the extra benefits to about two years from more than four currently.

Lufthansa Cargo is the largest freight division of any passenger airline in Europe. The 450 pilots at the unit already have their earliest retirement age set at 60, and the average departure age in the past years has exceeded 63, as many employees chose to fly longer, the carrier said.

The announcement was the the sixth strike call by the union in as many weeks. About half of Lufthansa’s cargo flies in the baggage holds of passenger planes, which aren’t affected by the this week’s scheduled walkout.

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