Thousands stranded as Lufthansa strike grounds flights
Berlin — Thousands of international travelers were stranded Thursday as a strike by Lufthansa pilots was extended to long-haul flights, and Germany’s largest airline said it was preparing for even more cancellations on Friday.
After canceling 84 of 153 of its long-haul flights on Thursday, affecting 18,000 passengers, Lufthansa said another 790 flights would have to be called off Friday as the Vereinigung Cockpit union shifted focus again to short- and medium-haul runs.
The airline said 90 of Friday’s cancellations would be due to a separate labor issue in Italy, where air traffic controllers were to go on strike. The two strikes on Friday were expected to affect some 94,000 of its passengers, the airline said, though long-haul flights would return to normal operations.
Lufthansa apologized to its passengers for the inconvenience. It noted subsidiaries Germanwings, Eurowings, Air Dolomiti, Swiss, Austrian Airlines, and Brussels Airlines flights would be operating as normal, meaning that overall the Lufthansa group would be operating some three quarters of its 3,000 daily flights on Friday.
Already, some 80,000 passengers were affected in the first day of the strike Wednesday when some 750 short- and medium-haul flights were canceled.
The union has hit various Lufthansa units with around a dozen short-term walkouts over recent months. The dispute centers on the airline’s plans to cut transition payments for pilots wanting to retire early, which the union wants to see maintained.
Lufthansa and other traditional national carriers have been trying to find savings, as they are being increasingly squeezed by European budget carriers such as Ryanair and EasyJet as well as major Gulf airlines like Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways.
The German government is alongside France pressing the European Union to demand fair competition with the Gulf airlines, which are accused of receiving billions in states subsidies from their home states.