Frankfurt - A strike by Lufthansa cabin crew disrupted
hundreds of flights on Friday, stranding thousands of passengers who faced
further delays over a busy holiday travel weekend from a rolling series of
stoppages about pay and cost cuts.
Frankfurt Airport operator Fraport AG said it had asked for
no flights to depart to Frankfurt from European destinations, citing a lack of
parking positions at Germany’s busiest airport due to planes grounded by the
Intercontinental flights were not affected, Fraport said.
Germany’s biggest airline said it canceled most of the 360
scheduled arrivals and departures at its Frankfurt hub during Friday’s
eight-hour strike, which followed the breakdown of 13 months of talks with
trade union UFO.
UFO, which represents around two-thirds of Lufthansa’s 19
000 flight attendants, did not rule out further stoppages over the weekend and
said it could call for industrial action at other airports “today or tomorrow”.
“It depends a lot on what Lufthansa’s response is,” UFO head
Nicoley Baublies told Bayerischen Rundfunk radio, warning the airline not to
pressure workers to break the strike.
The stoppages were initially focused on flights to and from
Frankfurt, but might affect the airline’s wider European and global network and
could cost it millions of euros a day in lost revenue.
Lufthansa said it would try to place passengers on trains
and alternative flights.
“The call to strike action may lead to unscheduled flight
delays and cancellations,” Lufthansa said in a message to passengers on its
website. “Long-haul flights are the uppermost priority and, wherever possible,
should not be canceled. Nevertheless, delays must be anticipated.”
The coming weekend promises to be busy for travel because it
marks the end of the summer holidays in many parts of Germany, and many Germans
would be planning to get away since some regions are still in the midst of
their summer breaks.
Long lines of passengers waited at Lufthansa service
counters in Frankfurt where peanuts and bottles of water or apple juice were
offered to disgruntled travelers.
Helga Froesch, munching sausage and bread while holding
sparkling wine in a plastic glass in her other hand, said her flight to Malta
has been delayed by a day. “We are now eating our breakfast,” she said.
Sara Vassallo, traveling with her husband and two children
from Cape Town en route to Marseille, said: “We are used to strikes in France,
but not here.”
Like most global airlines, Lufthansa is battling soaring
fuel prices, weak demand from cash-strapped passengers and economic slowdown,
as well as fierce competition from low-cost carriers such as Ryanair.
Lufthansa, which operates around 1 850 flights daily, mostly
from Frankfurt and Munich, also needs to generate more profit to pay for €17bn
of new aircraft on order.
The UFO union, which represents around two-thirds of
Lufthansa’s 19 000 flight attendants, wants a 5% pay rise and guarantees that
Lufthansa will not outsource jobs and use more temporary workers, as it has
already done in Berlin.
Lufthansa says cabin crew must contribute to the
UFO warned this week the industrial action could continue
for a long time and widen into nationwide stoppages if Lufthansa does not meet
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