The strike of pilots of the German airline Lufthansa paralyzed air traffic on Friday, and connections to the Czech Republic were also cancelled. At major German airports, long lines of people are forming at the company’s counters trying to find replacements for canceled flights. Lufthansa has urged passengers not to go to the airport if their flight has been cancelled. The strike for higher wages comes as the holiday season ends in the three West German states.
“Please avoid trips to the airport. Due to the strike, few or no service counters are open. It is highly unlikely that you will be offered an alternative connection,” Lufthansa said. Passengers with a canceled domestic flight can pick up a ticket for Deutsche Bahn trains free of charge, also online.
The strike comes before the last holiday weekend in Hesse, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland, when residents return from vacation. Going on vacation or returning home also complicated the protest in Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg, where the summer vacation ends in a week.
The strike most affected Germany’s largest airports, which are Frankfurt am Main and Munich. There are long queues at the Lufthansa counters. Virtually all connections of this company were canceled at these airports. Flight cancellations also affected other German airports, such as Düsseldorf and Berlin. The connection between Prague and Frankfurt is also cancelled. Lufthansa canceled 800 flights for today, affecting roughly 130,000 passengers.
In a live feed from Frankfurt, public broadcaster ARD said passengers were irritated and upset. One of the passengers, who arrived from New York without being able to continue on a connecting flight, said she had received no further information from the airlines on how she could continue to travel, except for an email about the canceled connection.
“I don’t know if they will transfer me to another flight, if I will continue by train, or if I will go by rental car,” said the woman. But she added that she understands the reasons for the strike, so she has sympathy for the pilots.
The reason for the strike is disputes over wages. The pilots’ union Vereinigung Cockpit (VC) is asking for a 5.5 percent increase this year and the creation of a mechanism that would allow growth to outpace inflation in future years. Lufthansa says such requirements would increase cockpit staffing costs by 40 percent. She herself proposes an increase in the basic monthly salary by 900 euros (CZK 22,000). This, she said, would represent an 18 percent wage increase for entry-level pilots and a five percent increase for captains over an 18-month period.
Lufthansa has called on the unions to return to the negotiating table. However, VC spokesman Matthias Baier said the airlines had not submitted any viable offer that could have prevented the strike.