European travelers face more uncertainty this week as Lufthansa pilots announced yet another round of strikes, just hours after Air France ended a damaging two-week strike.
Vereinigung Cockpit (VC), a pilots’ union, said that there will be no long haul flights from Frankfurt, Germany’s largest airport, between 8am and 11pm on Tuesday. The strike will ground all Airbus A380, Boeing 747, Airbus A330 and Airbus A340 flights.
This will be the fifth round of strike action to have hit the airline in recent months. Lufthansa has already had to cancel 4,300 flights, amid clashes with its pilots over an early retirement scheme. It has also failed to reach an agreement with VC over new roles that would require pilots to work longer hours before receiving overtime.
Der Spiegel magazine reported Sunday that Lufthansa Chief Executive Carsten Spohr was considering renting out the A340s earmarked for long-haul low-cost services to PrivateAir, a company based in Switzerland, and leasing them back with Swiss pilots who are not subject to German labor agreements. Lufthansa said in a statement that it was entirely within its rights to consider such a plan, but declined to comment further.
The strikes come as Europe’s national carriers struggle to find ways to compete with budget airlines, and amid fierce competition from overseas.
The strikes come as Europe’s national carriers struggle to find ways to compete with budget airlines, and amid fierce competition from overseas. On Sunday, Air France pilots agreed to go back to work after the longest strike the company had known, but only after winning significant concessions from the company, including forcing the loss-making airline to end the European expansion of its low-cost subsidiary Transavia.
The airline wanted to pay local rates to the Transavia Europe pilots, and the French pilots feared pressure on their own work contracts and relocations overseas. Air France pilots are paid up to 25 percent more than those at Transavia and fly fewer hours than their counterparts at Lufthansa or British Airways. Each strike day had cost the airline €15 million to €20 million, it said.
Lufthansa’s management has taken a harder line with many of its pilots. Lufthansa pilots called off a strike over pensions on September 15 after the airline found replacement aircrew for all intercontinental flights that were due to be affected by the action. Management also earlier revealed details of negotiations with its pilots, breaking German protocol which usually dictates that labor disputes take place behind closed doors.
In France, the government, which owns about 16 percent of Air France-KLM, joined negotiations to help to end the strike. This is unlikely to happen in Germany as the state has no shares in the airline.
Tanja Kuchenbecker is a Handelsblatt correspondent in France. Christian Schnell is a Handelsblatt editor in Frankfurt, reporting on the automotive industry. Meera Selva is an editor at Handelsblatt Global Edition. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com