Lufthansa pilots strike grounds hundreds of flights

A German pilots union has announced further strikes, in a standoff that has affected more than 350,000 passengers in recent weeks.

Arne Dedert/dpa/AP/File
A passenger stands in front of the departure board at the airport in Frankfurt, Germany, Friday. The Lufthansa pilots want to continue their strike at least until Saturday.

A pilots' strike that began last week will continue through Tuesday and Wednesday, affecting hundreds more short- and long-haul flights with German airline Lufthansa. 

A walkout that started last Wednesday over a long-running pay dispute is scheduled to resume on Nov. 29 and 30, following failed talks on Sunday between Lufthansa and the German pilots union Vereinigung Cockpit (VC). The airline was forced to cancel nearly 2,800 flights during the four-day walkout last week and expects to cancel about 816 flights on Tuesday and 890 on Wednesday.

Last week's strike marked the fourteenth walkout in a pay dispute that began in early 2014. The pilots, who say they have not received a pay raise in more than five years, are demanding an annual increase of 3.7 percent for 5,400 pilots over a five-year period, backdated to 2012. Lufthansa, which is struggling to compete with budget rivals, says that meeting the union's demands would threaten the future of the airline. 

"We stand no chance to survive," said Carsten Spohr, chief executive of Lufthansa, as reported by the BBC. "There is no more leeway for even better offers when escalation is what is wanted, as opposed to a solution." 

On Friday, VC rejected the latest pay offer from Lufthansa: a 2.4 percent pay raise in 2016 and an additional 2 percent increase in 2017, as well as a one-off payment worth 1.8 months' pay. 

"Unfortunately the high-level talks that took place today at short notice failed to produce a result," VC board member Jörg Handwerg said in a statement on Sunday. "There is still no negotiable offer from Lufthansa regarding the compensation of pilots, which means industrial action needs to continue." 

Lufthansa had previously told Bild am Sonntag that such action would not lead to a resolution and called on the union to resume talks. 

"We have to talk," said Bettina Volkens, Lufthansa's board member in charge of human resources. "I hope very much that [VC] finally changes its uncompromising stance. This cannot be forced via strikes." 

On Monday, Lufthansa sought an injunction from a Munich labor court halting the walkout Tuesday but was unsuccessful. The airline said it planned to appeal the decision to a higher court.

Each of the strike days has cost Lufthansa around 10 million euros, or $10.6 million, The Wall Street Journal reports. Pilot and cabin crew walkouts cost the airline 222 million euros ($235 million) in 2014, according to the IW Cologne Institute for Economic Research, and 231 million euros (nearly $245 million) in 2015. 

This report contains material from the Associated Press and Reuters.

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