Last updated: 01:19 PM ET, Fri November 06 2015

Lufthansa Flight Attendants Stage Walkout

Airlines & Airports | Rich Thomaselli | November 06, 2015

Lufthansa Flight Attendants Stage Walkout

First the pilots, now the flight attendants.

A series of sporadic walkouts over the last 18 months by Lufthansa AG pilots has apparently inspired the airline’s flight attendants to do the same, as hundreds of cabin crew members walked off the job today, stranding thousands of travelers.

A series of coordinated strikes at different German airports over the next week began today at 8 a.m. ET, 2 p.m. in Germany, and has already forced the cancellation or postponement of 290 flights – many of them overseas – and affecting more than 37,000 passengers, according to Lufthansa’s website.

UFO, the union representing cabin crew members, rejected Lufthansa’s latest offer on Thursday. The union is upset over Lufthansa’s desire to cut costs in order to compete with European low-budget carriers, which the union says is affecting salaries and pensions.

Today’s first day of walkouts hit airports in Frankfurt, Lufthansa’s biggest hub, and Dusseldorf. It was expected to last for nine hours, the union said in a statement, with a 17-hour walkout planned for Saturday in Frankfurt.

The walkouts will affect Lufthansa and all of its subsidiary airlines, including Swiss, Brussels and Austrian Airlines, Germanwings, Eurowings, Air Dolomiti and Cityline.

“Lufthansa will do its utmost to keep the effects of the strike to the minimum and to inform passengers as soon as possible,” the airline said on its website. “For that reason Lufthansa requests all passengers to stay up to date by checking flight status.”

Lufthansa said it has reserved 2,500 hotel rooms in Frankfurt to help stranded passengers, and has set up hundreds of cots in the terminals at Frankfurt for passengers who cannot leave the airport without visas.

According to Bloomberg News, the walkouts will end on Friday, Nov. 13, although no strike is planned for Sunday and no strike is planned at the airport in Munich, where hundreds if not thousands of travelers will pass through because of the end of school vacations in southern Germany.

"We regret this course of action, but we see no alternative," union head Nicoley Baublies told the BBC.

The BBC also quoted Equinet analyst Jochen Rothenbacher as saying the strike could cost Lufthansa €20m ($21.4 million USD). This comes on the heels of an estimated €130m ($139.5 million USD) lost so far this year due to the numerous strikes by pilots, who are also seeking a revised contract.

Lufthansa has put the number much higher, saying it has lost $300 million due to 13 walkouts by the pilots in the last 18 months. It took a regional court in Frankfurt to overturn a lower court ruling in September that ended the latest strike. The German carrier’s pilots, represented by the Vereinigung Cockpit (VC) trade union, are trying to pressure Lufthansa from cutting the early retirement clause in the contract between the union and the airline.

The union is also concerned with Lufthansa’s development of Eurowings, its low-budget airline affiliated created to compete with Europe’s other low cost carriers.

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