Photographer: Martin Leissl/Bloomberg

Lufthansa Cancels Thursday Flights After Failing to Stop Strike

  • Airline drops more than 900 connections on cabin crew walkout
  • Strike started Wednesday, targets flights at German hubs

Deutsche Lufthansa AG canceled hundreds of flights scheduled for Thursday after losing two court bids to stop a three-day strike by flight attendants in a labor dispute that has already led to a record series of walkouts by cabin crew.

The UFO cabin crew union won both cases on Wednesday, allowing it to continue with the strike at hubs in Frankfurt, Munich and Dusseldorf through Friday. The German carrier was forced to drop more than 900 connections on Thursday, bringing the total number of cancellations to 3,800 since the walkouts began Nov. 6.

Carsten Spohr speaks in Frankfurt

Photographer: Martin Leissl/Bloomberg

“We must push for solving our labor issues for as long as it takes,”  Chief Executive Officer Carsten Spohr told reporters at an event in Frankfurt. “I cannot compromise on solving these issues. There is no alternative. The world is changing.”

Flight attendants and pilots are fighting Spohr’s efforts to overhaul Lufthansa and develop the Eurowings division into a low-cost arm to compete with rivals such as Ryanair Holdings Plc and EasyJet Plc. Spohr has stuck with that strategy even as mainline brand employees have resisted, viewing the potential gains as being worth the immediate financial hit. Ruxandra Haradau-Doeser, an analyst at Kepler Cheuvreux, estimates the impact of the current cabin crew strikes at about 100 million euros ($107 million).

"They’ve clearly decided to take on the cabin crew, to take on the pilots,” said James Hollins, a Nomura aviation analyst based in London. “The management determination gives us some faith. They’re not just going to capitulate. Short-term pain certainly. Long term, they have to do this."

Investors have largely backed management’s tough stance, with the shares closing up 0.6 percent in Frankfurt on Wednesday, giving the airline a market value of 6.26 billion euros.

Negotiating Points

Lufthansa’s latest offer to UFO included a one-time payment of 3,000 euros per employee and acceptance of the union’s demands on early retirements, but only for current workers. The carrier also said it will scale back flights, a proposal that UFO called a “provocation.”

Lufthansa has declined to estimate how much the flight attendants’ strike has cost. A parallel dispute with pilots that led to 12,800 cancellations over an 18-month period amounted to a burden of 352 million euros. Walkouts by pilots ended last September when a German court ruled that the moves marked an illegal effort by the Vereinigung Cockpit union to fight corporate strategy. Vereinigung Cockpit announced on Tuesday that it had filed an appeal at the Constitutional Court, Germany’s highest court, against that ruling.

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