Now, uncertainty shrouds lakhs of passengers supposed to fly hundreds of Lufthansa (LH) flights on Wednesday and Thursday (September 7 and 8) as its pilots have yet again given a two-day strike call. The German airline will decide on flight cancellations over the next few days on Tuesday while continuing “collective bargaining negotiations with the Vereinigung Cockpit (VC) will under high time pressure.” LH admits “massive impact” on its flight operations during this latest strike call.
A pilots’ strike on September 2 had led to almost 800 flights being cancelled, affecting nearly 1.3 lakh passengers. Delhi Airport had witnessed protests from about 700 passengers – almost all Canada-bound students – who were to fly to Frankfurt and Munich that night.
While they protested inside the terminal, their relatives and friends blocked entrance at T3. The police had to intervene that night to restore traffic flow at the terminal. With outbound student travel season on in full swing in India, a two- day strike could lead to more such situations over the next 2-3 days.
LH said in a statement: “Due to the strike call published (Monday night), the strike-related flight cancellations for Wednesday and Thursday must be decided (Tuesday). This is necessary for aircraft and crew scheduling, as well as to provide at least minimal advance notice to affected passengers.”
Michael Niggemann, Chief Human Resources Officer and Labor Director at Deutsche Lufthansa AG, said: “It is regrettable that this wage dispute continues to escalate despite an agreed negotiation date. We lack any understanding for this course of action. The path of escalation is also wrong because we know that our pilots would much rather fly than strike. Nevertheless, we will do everything in our power to succeed with an improved offer, even under time pressure.”
Lufthansa has been among European carriers facing strike calls in past few months by various sections of organised employee unions like ground staff, cabin crew and pilots. European airports have been a mess this entire summer as they were unable to handle the sharp revival in travel due ot reasons like employee shortage and then strikes. Lufthansa had to cancel all its flights to and from Frankfurt and Munich on July 27 due to a strike by groud staff union “ver.di”.
The impact of a one-day strike begins earlier and lasts for next 2-3 days. For instance a strike on September 2 meant a majority of international flights (including India) that operate out of Frankfurt and Munich on September 1 did not see operate the return leg back to the German hubs. Then the flights out of the two hubs on September 2 did not operate. And on September 3, the flights flying back to Frankfurt and Munich resumed as the intended schedule of September 3. So a one-day strike had left behind a trail of cancelled flights with scores of affected passengers.
Now as a two-day strike looms large in the peak student travel season, passengers hope the German carrier – which a majority of people choose for its network and connections rather than onboard comfort – is able to sort out issues with its various employee unions.
LH on Tuesday said after the Vereinigung Cockpit collective bargaining demand was changed last Friday as a result of a ruling by the Munich labor court, the union will present the new demand for the first time Tuesday. The previous demand for automated inflation compensation has been replaced by a demand for an annual pay increase of 8.2% starting in 2023 – in addition to a 5.5% increase this year. The union’s list of demands contains a total of 16 individual points. Lufthansa says it will make an improved offer Tuesday . So far, an increase of 500 euros on September 1, 2022, and 400 euros on April 1, 2023, have been offered.