Lufthansa cancels almost half of flights due to strike

Talks continue to stall on pilots' retirement scheme
|labour-reporter.com|Last Updated: 12/01/2014

FRANKFURT (Reuters) — German flagship carrier Lufthansa canceled 1,350 flights, or 48 per cent of scheduled services, for Monday and Tuesday as its pilots prepared to go on strike, their ninth walkout this year.

The canceled short-, medium- and long-haul flights will affect 150,000 passengers and wipe another single-digit million euro sum off the airline's earnings, according to analyst estimates.

Pilots' union Vereinigung Cockpit (VC) called the two-day strike at the carrier, starting at midday on Monday, after talks over an early retirement scheme for pilots, developed decades ago, broke down late last week.

Industrial action in the long-running dispute has already wiped 160 million euros ($200 million) off Lufthansa's operating profit, adding to pressure from a stuttering global economy and increased competition.

The carrier lowered its profit guidance for 2015 for the second time this year in late October, and is expanding low-cost operations to better compete with budget carriers and Gulf rivals.

"They should have their money, but for us this is all very obstructive. If you want to go somewhere on vacation and have it ruined for you, it's not ok. They should sit down and come to an agreement," Lufthansa passenger Elfriede Bretagne told Reuters TV in Frankfurt, at Germany's busiest airport.

VC, representing about 5,400 Lufthansa pilots, is fighting to keep a scheme that allows pilots to retire at the age of 55 and still receive up to 60 per cent of their pay before regular pension payments start at 65.

Lufthansa has said it made concessions in recent talks, including a 5 per cent pay rise, but reiterated that it would not accept a demand that new pilots, as well as those already with the company, should be able to retire at 55.

"Viewed from the outside, it remains difficult to predict when a compromise can be reached," DZ Bank analyst Dirk Schlamp said.

Union VC has said the Germany-wide strike is to last from midday (06:00 a.m. ET) on Monday to 11:59 pm (05:59 p.m. ET) on Tuesday for short- and medium-haul flights, as well as from 3 a.m. (09:00 p.m. ET on Monday) to 11:59 pm (05:59 p.m. ET) on Tuesday for long-haul flights.

Pilots flying for Lufthansa Cargo will also strike from 3 a.m. to 11:59 pm on Tuesday. Flights of budget arm Germanwings will not be affected.

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