FRANKFURT – Lufthansa proposed a summit meeting between union leaders and top management — including CEO Carsten Spohr — to resolve worker issues if labour representatives immediately end a strike that has disrupted traffic at the airline’s three German hubs.
The company called the stoppage by the UFO flight attendants union “irresponsible” and urged union officials to call off the stoppage and meet Tuesday directly with executives including Spohr and personnel chief Bettina Volkens.
The strike action, launched Friday, is set to last all week, with shifting targets. On Monday, about 113,000 passengers on 929 flights were affected at the Frankfurt, Munich and Duesseldorf airports.
The union wants to secure transition payments for its 19,000 members if they retire early as part of its contract dispute with Lufthansa, which is trying to cut costs.
For Tuesday, UFO said, only long-haul international flights will be affected at Lufthansa’s Munich and Frankfurt hubs, the dpa news agency reported. At Duesseldorf, all flights, long-distance and shorter ones within Germany and Europe, however, will be struck.
The travel disruptions highlight the pressure Europe’s flagship carriers are under as they struggle to compete with Gulf airlines on long-haul flights between Europe and Asia and with budget brands on regional routes.
UFO called on all members to walk out Monday from 4.30 a.m. to 11 p.m. (0330 GMT to 2200 GMT) in Frankfurt and Duesseldorf and until midnight (2300 GMT) in Munich. Lufthansa said 929 flight segments were cancelled, out of 3,000 planned connections.
The union wants to secure transition payments for its 19,000 members if they retire early as part of its contract dispute with Lufthansa, which is trying to cut costs. The strikes don’t affect Lufthansa subsidiaries such as Eurowings, Germanwings, Swiss and Austrian Airlines.
Lufthansa, which has also had more than a dozen pilot strikes over the past 18 months, is trying to hold down costs as it competes against low-cost airlines such as Ryanair on European routes. On its lucrative long-haul business, Lufthansa faces pressure from airlines in the Persian Gulf region such as Emirates, Ethihad Airways, and Qatar Airways. Lufthansa says that the Gulf carriers receive unfair backing from their governments.
The German airline is not alone. Air France-KLM has also been looking to trim costs and seen labour unrest in which union activists stormed a meeting and ripped the shirts off two managers.
Helped by lower fuel prices, Lufthansa’s net profit jumped to 794 million euros in the third quarter, from 561 million in the same quarter a year ago, an increase of 42 per cent. That has helped sharpen the labour relations climate as worker representatives say the airline has the money. The airline cautions that it can’t count on temporary factors such as the oil price and must continue to press for competitive cost structures.