Lufthansa Cabin Crews Plan Three-Day Strike in Intensifying Move

  • Airline seeks labor-court injunctions against further walkouts
  • Strike starting Wednesday targets all flights at main airports

Deutsche Lufthansa AG flight attendants plan to strike for three full days at the company’s three main German bases in an intensifying dispute over terms for early retirement.

Lufthansa is seeking injunctions at two German labor courts to prevent the cabin crew union UFO from staging more walkouts after stoppages that have disrupted flights for four of the past five days. UFO called on its members to halt all work from 4 a.m. Wednesday through midnight Friday in Frankfurt, Munich and Dusseldorf, and said for the first time that it may seek more strikes later.

Lufthansa strike

Photographer: Martin Leissl/Bloomberg

Including 126 long-haul and 10 European flights scrapped at the three airports on Tuesday and 34 cancellations already set for Wednesday, Lufthansa has dropped 1,900 services since the walkouts began Nov. 6, a record for a flight attendants’ dispute at the airline. Those come on top of 12,800 flight cancellations over 18 months in a related conflict between the Cologne, Germany-based carrier and the Vereinigung Cockpit pilots union. The pilots’ representatives said separately on Tuesday that they’re filing an appeal at Germany’s top court over a lower-court ruling halting their walkouts in September.

The unions are battling against Lufthansa’s efforts to restructure to compete with low-cost rivals such as Ryanair Holdings Plc and EasyJet Plc, Europe’s two biggest discount carriers. The airline’s strategy hinges on development of its Eurowings division into a low-cost arm. 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. Nicoley Baublies, UFO’s head, called the proposal a “provocation.”

Lufthansa filed for an emergency injunction at labor courts in Darmstadt and Dusseldorf in an effort to stop further walkouts, Helmut Tolksdorf, a spokesman for the carrier, said Tuesday by phone. The Darmstadt court has set a hearing for 8 p.m., while the Dusseldorf court hasn’t yet decided how to proceed, according to their spokeswomen.

Lufthansa fell as much as 2.3 percent to 13.21 euros, the lowest intraday price since Oct. 30, and was trading down 1.9 percent at 1:34 p.m. in Frankfurt. The stock has dropped 4.1 percent this year, valuing the airline at 6.16 billion euros.

The airline is “aware of the burdens our passengers are currently bearing,” and that it’s “currently not able to offer premium services,” Spohr said at a Berlin press conference before UFO announced its broader strike.

Lufthansa hasn’t estimated how much the flight attendants’ strike has cost. Spending related to the pilots’ walkout amounted to 352 million euros. Those stoppages ended when a German court ruled in September that they marked an illegal move by Vereinigung Cockpit to fight corporate strategy in which labor doesn’t have a say. The union’s appeal to Germany’s Constitutional Court states that the strike wasn’t related to any issue outside of early retirement benefits.

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