Frankfurt (dpa) – A strike by cabin crew crippled German airline Lufthansa on Thursday, with around 1,300 flights and 180,000 passengers expected to be hit in total over two days.
On Thursday, some 700 flights from the main group’s schedule of 1,100 were cancelled, with 600 axed on Friday, prompting Lufthansa chief executive Carsten Spohr to call in a statement for new talks with the Ufo trade union to settle their dispute over pay and conditions.
Ufo spokesman Nicoley Baublies said it was ready to enter into arbitration with Lufthansa this weekend but that they would not cancel the two-day strike.
The union though will not extend the strike to other airlines in the Lufthansa group such as Swiss, Austrian, Brussels Airlines or Eurowings, but reserves the right to launch further action.
“If the talks don’t work out, we will have to announce on Monday that there will be more strikes,” Baublies told reporters at Munich airport, labelling Lufthansa’s conciliatory actions an “about-turn”. Both sides have agreed to confidentiality during the fresh talks.
Lufthansa, which held discussions with two other unions Verdi and Cabin Union on Wednesday but not Ufo, lost a bid to halt the strike at a Frankfurt labour court and also failed in its appeal against that decision later in the day.
Lufthansa had previously refused new tariff discussions in a battle over the legality of the talks, but now wants talks to try to avoid more damaging industrial action – as long as the lawyers are happy.
“If we come to an agreement, it must have legal backing,” Spohr said.
The strike is aimed at securing demands for higher expenses and allowances for approximately 21,000 Lufthansa flight attendants, as well as better access to regular employment for seasonal workers.
The Verdi union criticized the extent of the flight cancellations and said its own research had shown only about 150 flight attendants participated in the strike. Spohr spoke of 240 cabin crew members on strike.
Most take-offs from Germany with LH flight numbers were cancelled, including the majority of intercontinental connections from its two hubs in Frankfurt and Munich.
The same pattern is expected for Friday and the airline said some disruption could follow on Saturday because aircraft and crews are not in the right places.
Lufthansa has offered customers free rebooking options and some passengers have been switched to other airlines, other departure dates or been given German domestic rail tickets.
A spokesman for the German rail company, Deutsche Bahn, said the rail traffic situation was normal around Frankfurt and nationwide.
There was also calm in the airport terminals of Frankfurt and Munich. There were no long queues at counters, said a spokeswoman for Fraport, which owns Germany’s biggest airport in Frankfurt which is also Lufthansa’s biggest hub.
“We assume that the passengers have been informed in advance,” she said.
Lufthansa, which announced better-than-forecast net quarterly profit on Thursday, said it did not yet know what financial impact the strikes would have.
After a previous strike by Ufo at Lufthansa’s four German subsidiaries last month, more than 100 flights were cancelled.
The last regular Ufo strike on the core Lufthansa brand dates back to 2015 and lasted a week, the longest in the company’s history.