Lufthansa Loses German Court Attempt to Halt Pilot Strike

  • Munich court says airline is appealing rejection of injunction
  • Flight cancellations from walkout total about 4,500 this month

Deutsche Lufthansa AG lost a German court bid to prevent pilots from resuming strikes Tuesday in a labor dispute that has caused almost 4,500 flight cancellations this month.

The Munich Labor Court denied the airline’s request for an injunction preventing the two-day walkout at the mainline Lufthansa brand, putting the pilots on track for their longest-ever work stoppage at the carrier. Lufthansa dropped an appeal of the decision, clearing the way for the strike to resume at midnight local time.

Lufthansa scrapped more than 1,700 flights Tuesday and Wednesday, or about 27 percent of its normal schedule, adding to the nearly 2,800 services canceled in a four-day walkout last week. The extended strike may cost the airline about 45 million euros ($48 million), based on estimates from the German company, with travel disrupted for more than half a million passengers.

Wage Gap

A long-running spat over wages, working conditions and the role of discount unit Eurowings within the group intensified last week after Chief Executive Officer Carsten Spohr sought to block what started with a single-day walkout. When a Frankfurt labor court dismissed the case and an appeal failed, the Vereinigung Cockpit pilots union retaliated by extending the protest. The CEO has refused to cave in to wage demands as he seeks to trim costs to weather intensifying competition from budget rivals such as Ryanair Holdings Plc.

Lufthansa shares fell 2.2 percent to 12.35 euros in Frankfurt, extending the stock’s decline for the year to 15 percent.

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 has offered 2.5 percent for a six-year period, and last week reiterated its willingness to lift that to 4.4 percent plus a bonus payment, provided the pilots agree to concessions in retirement benefits, seniority bonuses and other perks. The union said Sunday that it’s extending walkouts in the absence of a “negotiable offer” from Lufthansa.

Adding fuel to the fire, Spohr responded to the extended strikes last week by reviving a two-year-old legal case seeking 60 million euros in damages from the union related to an earlier walkout. Vereinigung Cockpit called the move an attempt to destroy the union.

Lufthansa has said the protests cause about 10 million euros in damages on days when both European and long-haul flights are affected. The airline 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. Meanwhile, with Christmas just four weeks away, extended protests could hurt forward bookings into the busy holiday season.

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