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Eurowings pilots strike causes flight pain in Germany

Thousands of Eurowings passengers faced travel disruptions on Thursday as a pilots’ strike led the German low-cost airline to cancel a slew of flights.

The Lufthansa subsidiary said around half of its 516 scheduled flights would be axed as a result of the walkout, called by the powerful Cockpit union, affecting up to 30,000 passengers.

Eurowings pilots are demanding a reduction in maximum flying time as well as an increase in rest periods — demands slammed by Eurowings as “disproportionate and irresponsible”.

“Despite two upcoming salary increases in the next four months of significantly more than 10 percent, Cockpit is demanding 14 additional days off per year as well as a reduction of the maximum weekly working hours by five hours,” said Kai Duve, head of finance and human resources.

This would make 20 percent of Eurowings flights “impossible” to run, he said.

Announcing the strike earlier this week, Cockpit said talks had broken down and industrial action was the only way to advance the pilots’ demands.

Matthias Baier, a Cockpit spokesman, said Eurowings “regularly pushes staff to the maximum permitted limit”.

The union said it remained open to further talks.

The European aviation sector has been hit by a growing number of strikes in recent months among pilots, cabin crew and ground staff.

High inflation has triggered calls for pay hikes, while the sector also faces a shortage of workers after many jobs were cut during the coronavirus pandemic.

Lufthansa pilots agreed last month not to go on strike again until at least the end of June next year under a pay deal negotiated with the airline.

Eurowings said it was expecting “largely normal flight operations” to resume on Friday.