German flyers face disruption as pilots strike
Thousands of air passengers in Germany face delays and cancellations ahead of the weekend as wage talks between pilots and Lufthansa's low-cost subsidiary Germanwings collapsed on Thursday.
Just hours after pilots' union Vereinigung Cockpit said its members would stage a six-hour walkout on Friday if management did not meet its demands in negotiations on early retirement provisions, Lufthansa announced that the talks had failed.
"We regret the strike announcement by Vereinigung Cockpit," Lufthansa said in a statement.
"A few hours before the scheduled talks were due to begin, the union announced there would be a strike if an agreement is not reached today," said the airline's personnel chief, Bettina Volkens.
"It was Lufthansa that had suggested the talks in the first place and these were primarily aimed at drawing up a proper procedure and timetable for negotiations," she said.
"We're very disappointed that a strike could not be averted. The impression we get is that a strike was already a done deal for Vereinigung Cockpit. It is not realistic to reach agreement in just one day on a new model for early retirement provisions," Volkens said.
Cockpit already grounded thousands of flights of its parent company Lufthansa during three days of strikes in March and April, costing the airline around 60 million euros ($79 million).
"Lufthansa and Germanwings will now concentrate on limiting the fallout from these strikes," which the union had said would take place between 6:00 am and midday (0400-1000 GMT) on Friday at all German airports.
The school summer holidays in two eastern states of Saxony and Thurinigia are officially scheduled to end on Friday.
"We will do everything to ensure that Germanwings passengers are looked after and that we can get them to their destination as best we can, despite the strike," Volkens said.
Germanwings said that out of the 164 flights affected, 116 would be cancelled, hitting 15,000 passengers.
"The strike will primarily affect domestic flights, where passengers have the possibility to switch to trains," the carrier said.
"Flights to holiday destinations will take place, with pilots who are normally employed at management levels stepping in. Germanwings will also rent aircraft from other airlines" to get holidaymakers to and from their destinations, it said.
"We very much regret the inconvenience caused to passengers and will try to keep the impact to a minimum," it added.
Any Germanwings flights operated by subsidiary Eurowings would not be affected, the airline added.
© 2014 AFP