Strike hits Lufthansa Airlines

July 31, 2008
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, LONDON, July 31 – Lufthansa canceled more flights Thursday, including 28 long-haul flights, because of a strike by technical and catering staff now in its fourth day, the airline said.

The German-based airline said it expected to cancel a total of 128 flights Thursday — 50 more than the day before.

They include 28 flights to North American destinations like New York, Washington, Atlanta, and Calgary, Canada, spokesman Aage Duenhaupt said.

Lufthansa was rebooking affected passengers on other Lufthansa flights or on partner airlines, he said.

The canceled flights represent six percent of Lufthansa\’s daily schedule, he said.

Lufthansa blamed the cancelations on aircraft that had to be grounded because technical staff were on strike and unable to do required checks on the planes, Duenhaupt said.

About 5,000 of Lufthansa\’s ground staff are on strike, according to the ver.di trade union.

The staff work for Lufthansa Technik, which provides technical services for the aircraft, and LSG Sky Chefs, the airline\’s catering subsidiary.

The staff walked off the job Monday in a dispute over pay. The union wants a pay rise of almost 10 percent over the next year, but Lufthansa has offered 6.7 percent over 21 months, plus a one-off payment.

Lufthansa\’s management has said it\’s the best offer they can make, Duenhaupt said.

"We have (told) ver.di that we are open (to) any new discussions with them," he said. "They have declined and said they\’ll only talk with us if we come with a new offer."

The strike has hit the airline during the busy summer holiday season and at a time when Lufthansa, like other carriers, struggles to deal with the high cost of fuel.

Duenhaupt would not speculate on the financial impact of the strike on Lufthansa.

Lufthansa canceled eight international flights and 70 domestic flights Wednesday, the company said, as a strike by technical and catering workers entered its third day.

It was the first day the labor action affected Lufthansa\’s intercontinental routes.

Lufthansa canceled flights to and from New York\’s Kennedy airport, Calcutta, Calgary and Chicago, a spokesman said. The total number of canceled flights represents four percent of Lufthansa\’s daily schedule.

About 5,000 of Lufthansa\’s ground staff are on strike, according to the ver.di trade union. The staff work for Lufthansa Technik, which provides technical services for the aircraft, and LSG Sky Chefs, the airline\’s catering subsidiary, the Lufthansa spokesman said.

Staff walked off the job Monday in a dispute over pay. The union wants a pay rise of almost 10 percent over the next year, but Lufthansa has offered 6.7 percent over 21 months, plus a one-off payment.

"We made a really substantial offer to ver.di, and ver.di decided to leave the table and abandon the talks," the Lufthansa spokesman said. "We say come back. We\’re open to dialogue, we\’re open to discussion, and we really ask ver.di to come back to the table to negotiate again."

The strike comes at a difficult time for the airline, in the middle of the summer holiday season, and as airlines struggle to deal with the impact of high fuel prices.

The spokesman said he could not predict how many flights would have to be canceled in the coming days if the strike continued.

In the meantime, he said Lufthansa was rebooking affected passengers onto other flights.

"We\’re pretty confident that we can enable the passengers to reach their destinations," he said.

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