Lufthansa pilot strike grounds nearly 900 flights

A pay dispute has left some 215,000 passengers affected, after pilots for Germany's largest airline launched a two-day strike.

Ralph Orlowski/Reuters
Planes stand on the tarmac during a pilots strike of German airline Lufthansa at Frankfurt airport, Germany, Wednesday.

Nearly 900 flights with a German airline were grounded Wednesday because of a two-day pilot strike expected to continue through Thursday.

The airline, Lufthansa, canceled 876 of its planned 3,000 flights for the day when the Vereinigung Cockpit pilots' union called for its members to walk out over a pay dispute. A total of 1,800 flights have been cancelled for Wednesday and Thursday, affecting about 215,000 passengers, CNN Money reports. 

The strike is the fourteenth by Cockpit since April 2014, as Lufthansa grapples with how to compete with Gulf airlines and European budget carriers. Primary rivals of the airline include Ryanair for short-haul flights and Emirates for long-haul flights. 

Company officials, including chief executive officer Carsten Spohr, say the airline has no choice but to reduce costs. The Cockpit union argues that despite the airline posting "very good numbers for years," its pilots have not received pay raises. They are asking for an annual average increase of 3.7 percent after experiencing no pay increases in more than five years. 

Meanwhile, the pilots claim, top company executives in recent years have received pay hikes as high as 30 percent, and board members have experienced even bigger raises.

Lufthansa, whose attempts to block the walkout in courts proved unsuccessful, reacted to the union's decision to extend the strike to Thursday by expressing "complete incomprehension." 

The airline company says it expects the strike to cost between 7 million euros and 9 million euros ($7.4 million to $9.6 million) each day. 

"We want the union to return to the negotiating table. Our door is wide open," said a Lufthansa spokesman on Wednesday. 

The cancellations left many passengers scrambling to find new travel accommodations. Passengers will not be charged a fee to rebook, the airline said.

Pilots are not the only Lufthansa employees that have gone on strike. Last year, the company cancelled 4,700 flights over seven days due to a strike by flight attendants, affecting about 550,000 passengers. 

This report contains material from the Associated Press and Reuters. 

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