Lufthansa pilots walk out on long-haul flights

Union calling for joint mediation on early retirement benefits
||Last Updated: 03/19/2015

FRANKFURT (Reuters) — Lufthansa pilots started a walkout on the airline's lucrative long-haul flights on Thursday, March 19, the second of three days of strike action, aiming to pressure management in a row over early retirement benefits and cost-cutting efforts.

Lufthansa is trying to bring its costs down to levels nearer those of its rivals. The airline is being squeezed by low-cost carriers Ryanair and easyJet on European short-haul routes and by airlines such as Turkish and Emirates on long-haul.

Lufthansa has cancelled 84 of its planned 153 long-haul flights for Thursday, affecting 18,000 passengers, a spokesman said.

Pilots at its cargo arm are also on strike but Lufthansa said it was able to carry out all planned cargo flights using volunteer pilots or shifting times slightly.

Late on Wednesday night, pilots' union Vereinigung Cockpit (VC) said they were extending the strike action to Friday, this time on short and medium-haul flights at the group's namesake brand.

Neither side shows any sign of backing down, and industry watchers say the row has the potential to run for a long time.

The pilots said Lufthansa was trying to erode the qualities that had made it into a successful global airline.

Lufthansa responded by saying the pilots were damaging a reputation that had taken years to build.

The row involves early retirement benefits that VC wants to keep but which Lufthansa wants to change for new starters. The pilots also want Lufthansa to enter joint mediation on a number of other outstanding issues, such as pay and bringing costs down on flights to tourist detsinations.

Lufthansa has said it will enter mediation only on the early retirement benefit talks.

The strike does not affect flights at units Austrian, Swiss, Germanwings, Eurowings or Air Dolomiti.

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