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German court orders halt to strike by Lufthansa pilots after 1,000 flights cancelled

BERLIN – A German court issued an injunction Wednesday ordering a halt to a strike by pilots at Lufthansa, Germany’s biggest airline, that caused the cancellation of 1,000 flights affecting 140,000 travellers.

Lufthansa welcomed the ruling by the state labour court in Frankfurt but said that a special, reduced timetable it had drawn up for the day would remain in place. It said that largely normal services would be resumed on Thursday.

The pilots’ union, Vereinigung Cockpit, has been calling regular short-term strikes in the long-running labour dispute, which comes as Lufthansa restructures to meet increasing competition from Gulf airlines. The pilots want the airline to keep making transition payments for those seeking early retirement.

Judges found that the union’s aims went beyond the formal reason given for the strike to exerting more influence on Lufthansa’s new low-cost operation, making the strike illegal, the court said in a statement.

The union has criticized CEO Carsten Spohr’s drive to expand the company’s low-cost operations under the Eurowings brand, with lower-paid staff.

Vereinigung Cockpit began its strike on long-haul flights Tuesday, forcing the cancellation of 90 flights, and extended the walk-out to medium-and short-haul flights Wednesday.

Union spokesman Markus Wahl told n-tv television after the ruling that it had told pilots to be available for work immediately. Wednesday’s ruling overturned one by a lower court on Tuesday that went in the union’s favour.

Lufthansa said about 500 of the airline’s flights were still in operation Wednesday. Subsidiaries Germanwings, Swiss, Austrian Airlines or Brussels Airlines weren’t involved.