Photographer: Martin Leissl/Bloomberg

Lufthansa Pilots Suspend Strike While Rejecting New Pay Offer

  • Proposed 4.4% raise is tied to cuts in other benefits
  • Union says walkout will end Saturday to spare passengers

Striking pilots at Deutsche Lufthansa AG dismissed a revised pay offer while saying they’ll end their action after four days at midnight Saturday.

The proposed 4.4 percent raise, sweetened from 2.5 percent, is unacceptable, being linked to concessions in retirement benefits, seniority bonuses and other perks, the Vereinigung Cockpit union said Friday. The deal is also similar to one already rejected.

The labor group said it won’t extend the pilot walkout into a fifth day in order to spare passengers further suffering, though spokesman Joerg Handwerg didn’t rule out resuming the protest next week. Lufthansa has scrapped almost 2,800 flights as a result of the strike, disrupting travel for around 350,000 people.

Vereinigung Cockpit is seeking a 20 percent raise for its members spanning the period from 2012, when the last accord expired, through 2017, equivalent to 3.7 percent a year. Lufthansa Chief Executive Officer Carsten Spohr has said his airline has “no chance of survival” if it accepts a demand that would render many routes unprofitable.

The first two days of strikes impacted the whole of the German carrier’s network, wiping out 40 percent of the timetable, while Friday’s action has been limited to short-haul routes and Saturday’s will impact the bulk of intercontinental services.

Klaus Froese, the head of Lufthansa’s Frankfurt operations and a pilot himself, said earlier on an internal news site that the union’s strategy of rolling strikes was being “driven by emotion” and causing a build up of pressure that had reduce the “available courses of action for solving the problem.”

A long-running spat over wages, working conditions and the growth of Eurowings reached new levels of bitterness after Spohr sought to block what had been planned as a single day of action. When a Frankfurt labor court dismissed the case and an appeal failed, Vereinigung Cockpit retaliated by repeatedly extending the protest.

While Spohr has repeatedly offered to take the issue to arbitration, he responded to the extension of the strike by reviving a two-year-old legal case against Vereinigung Cockpit for 60 million euros ($64 million) in damages from an earlier dispute, a tactic the union says amounts to an attempt to destroy it.

Lufthansa, which also faces opposition from cabin crew at Eurowings, who walked out Tuesday erasing 64 flights, has had to book 4,000 hotel rooms for stranded passengers and set up 400 camp beds at its Frankfurt hub for people due to catch connecting flights. The first two days of walkouts cost 10 million euros apiece, according to network airlines chief Harry Hohmeister.

Shares of Lufthansa closed down 1 percent at 12.51 euros in Frankfurt. They’ve declined 2.9 percent so far this week and are down 14 percent this year.

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