Lufthansa strike has limited impact on Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 April, 2013, 9:52pm
UPDATED : Monday, 22 April, 2013, 9:52pm

Germany’s largest airline Lufthansa said it was cancelling almost 1,700 flights on Monday, mostly on domestic and short-haul European routes, as a result of planned strike action by thousands of workers calling for higher pay.

“We expect things to return to normal by Wednesday, but there are no flights flying out [to Hong Kong] from Germany today.” said Frank Puttmann, the director of Lufthansa Group Communications Asia Pacific.

Puttman said the airline was confident the German union Verdi representing striking workers would only strike for a day, ahead of the fourth round of negotiations scheduled for the 29th and 30th of this month.

“Its part of European political rules for warning strikes,” said Puttmann who added flights out of Hong Kong would operate normally, because they will arrive after the strike is over. Flights originating from Frankfurt and Munich to Hong Kong today were all cancelled.

There are three flights operated out of Hong Kong daily by the Lufthansa Group, two under Lufthansa, and one by its subsidiary Swiss Air. Swiss Air and Austrian Airlines, another subsidiary of the group, will be unaffected by the strike, said Puttmann.

Verdi, representing 33,000 staff at the airline, announced the strike action on Friday to put pressure on Lufthansa management to make a better pay offer.

The union said the offer put forward by Lufthansa on Wednesday was “scandalous”.

As with previous strikes, Lufthansa cancelled mainly short-haul flights in order to keep more profitable long-haul flights in the air.

Lufthansa has estimated the strike will cost it tens of millions of euros and has described the labour action as “absurd” and “out of proportion”, given the early stage of negotiations.

“Despite an offer being made by Lufthansa in the last round of negotiations, despite constructive talks and further dates for more talks, Verdi is once again holding our customers hostage in this pay dispute,” Stefan Lauer, Lufthansa’s executive board member for personnel who is leading the pay talks, said on Friday.

Lufthansa’s offer was to raise salaries by 1.2 per cent from October this year and a further 0.5 per cent a year later, in a deal that would run for 29 months and would not contain job guarantees.

Verdi wants a 5.2 per cent pay rise for cabin crew and ground staff and is also seeking a commitment by Lufthansa to safeguard jobs.

Staff represented by Verdi held a one-day strike on March 21, forcing Lufthansa to cancel nearly 40 per cent of its average 1,750 flights for the day.