Lufthansa faces year's 11th pilots strike

3rd December 2014, Comments 0 comments

Germany's Lufthansa, Europe's biggest airline, braced for the year's 11th pilots strike Thursday, with tensions heightened by its plans to expand into low-cost intercontinental services.

Pilots union Vereinigung Cockpit (VC) had Tuesday announced this week's second strike, which will hit long-haul and cargo flights from 3:00 am (0200 GMT) until just before midnight (2259 GMT).

Its 36-hour strike Monday and Tuesday had caused more than 1,000 flights to be scrapped and disrupted services to destinations including London, Dubai, Seoul, Tel Aviv and Buenos Aires.

Thursday's strike will not affect domestic and inter-Europe flights or services operated by Lufthansa's low-cost subsidiary Germanwings.

The industrial unrest has flared up again since talks between the airline and union broke down last Friday.

The fight mainly centres on transitional pension arrangements for the union's about 5,400 pilots. They can now retire at 55 and receive up to 60 percent of their pay until they reach the statutory retirement age of 65.

Lufthansa, which wants to scrap the arrangement, said in October that combined strike action so far this year had cost it about 170 million euros ($210 million).

Pilots say they are also concerned about the airline's future strategy, including plans for a long-haul budget subsidiary where present collective bargaining arrangements would not apply.

On Wednesday, Lufthansa's supervisory board approved the strategy of CEO Carsten Spohr, which comes amid tough competition from low-cost carriers such as Ryanair and Easyjet and Gulf-based carriers.

Under the plan, the Group plans to build up its premium Lufthansa services, but also to offer Eurowings low-cost long-haul services with a fleet to be expanded with up to seven Airbus A330-200 jets.

Eurowings will offer budget long-haul services from late 2015 in collaboration with SunExpress, a joint-venture with Turkish Airlines, said the statement.

Initial destinations will be in Florida, southern Africa and the Indian Ocean, the airline said.

© 2014 AFP

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