Last updated: 12:08 PM ET, Thu March 19 2015

Lufthansa Pilots Extend Strike to Friday

Airlines & Airports | Rich Thomaselli | March 19, 2015

Lufthansa Pilots Extend Strike to Friday

Lufthansa Airlines pilots said they will extend their current strike to Friday, potentially leading to dozens of flight cancellations and thousands more stranded – though the German carrier said it expects to operate 75 percent of its flights.

The pilots union has staged mini two- and three-day walkouts over the last year to protest ongoing contract talks. The strike on Wednesday and Thursday was announced; Friday’s walkout was unexpected. Wednesday’s strike affected short- and medium-haul flights and will again on Friday; today, long-haul flights were at risk.

Yet a spokeswoman told the AFP news agency that it expects the majority of flights to be unaffected.

"We're assuming for the moment that the number of flights that can take off and land tomorrow will be of the same magnitude as on Wednesday," she said. "We're counting on around three quarters of all flights in the entire Lufthansa group — including Swiss, Austrian and Germanwings — going ahead.”

Several news outlets have reported that nearly 100,000 passengers have been inconvenienced – 80,000 on the first day and 18,000 so far today, when 84 of 153 flights were canceled.

The main labor issue between the Vereinigung Cockpit union and Lufthansa is over a previous agreement in contracts that the airline wants to terminate – a clause that would allow pilots to retire at 55 and still collect 60 percent of their pay until mandatory retirement age at 65. Lufthansa is also trying to keep costs down in order to compete with European low-budget airlines such as Ryanair.

"Competition must not lead to a sell-out of the values that have helped make Lufthansa one of the world's leading airlines," union spokesman Joerg Handwerg said in a statement provided to Reuters news agency.

Reuters also reported that analysts believe Lufthansa is losing up to $16 million a day because of the strikes.


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