Lufthansa Pilots Union Calls 12th Strike Over Benefits

Deutsche Lufthansa AG faces its 12th strike by pilots over retirement benefits in a conflict that has hurt earnings at Europe’s second-largest airline.

The Vereinigung Cockpit pilots union has asked Lufthansa cockpit crews on short- and medium-haul flights to walk out for the day on Wednesday for the second strike this year, after 10 in 2014. Lufthansa’s discount Germanwings and Eurowings units, as well as Swiss and Austrian arms, aren’t affected.

Lufthansa’s website listed 755 canceled flights for March 18. “A large proportion” of the approximately 3,000 planned will fly, the Cologne, Germany-based airline said in a statement. The company said it made concessions in past days, suggesting pilots will still be able to retire at 55, as well as offering to expand the main Lufthansa brand operations with associated benefits in a move that would add about 500 cockpit jobs.

The conflict cut Lufthansa’s operating profit by about 220 million euros ($233 million) in 2014 and contributed to Carsten Spohr lowering financial targets twice in his first year as chief executive officer. While the strike is only targeting retirement programs, the pilots also oppose Lufthansa cutting cockpit costs by moving flights to its Eurowings brand and its SunExpress joint venture.

Lufthansa shares rose 1.5 percent to 13.32 euros at 3:27 p.m. in Frankfurt, trimming this year’s decline to 3.7 percent.

The union said it won’t accept younger pilots having to agree to early retirement benefits that are “noticeably worse” than those paid to longer-serving ones.

The company said it canceled talks with the union that had been scheduled for Tuesday, and withdrew an offer to raise pilots’ pay.

(An earlier version of this story was corrected after Lufthansa amended its statement to say that its Germanwings unit won’t be affected by the strike.)

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