Lufthansa strike affects SA flights

2013-04-22 14:18
Frankfurt - German airline Lufthansa cancelled most of its domestic, European and long-haul flights to and from airports across the country Monday as thousands of staff walked out in pursuit of higher pay.

Out of nearly 1 800 planned flights on Monday, "we will operate 20 short and medium-range flights and 12 long-distance services," a spokesman told AFP.

Only two flights operating the Johannesburg-Frankfurt route have been affected by the strike.

According to Aage Dünhaupt from Deutsche Lufthansa AG Group Communications, a Frankfurt-bound flight from OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg was cancelled on Sunday evening, while a Johannesburg-bound flight set to leave Frankfurt on Monday night at 22:05 has also been cancelled.

Cancellations have been communicated to passengers via the website as well as more than 100 000 smses sent out by the airline.

"Passengers affected by the cancellation have either been rebooked on other airlines or offered a refund," Dünhaupt said.

He also explained that the strike could be described as a 'warning strike' and that it will not stretch on into the rest of the week, meaning that only flights arriving or departing German airports on Monday would be affected.

For this reason, the Lufthansa flight departing from Johannesburg to Frankfurt on Monday evening at 19:05 will not be affected, as it is only set to arrive in Germany on Tuesday morning at 05:45.

South African-based PR agent for Lufthansa, Karin Duncker has, however, advised passengers to check their flight status on the website. They can also call 0861 84 25 38 for more information.

Lufthansa operates a daily non-stop flight between Johannesburg and Frankfurt throughout the year using the Airbus A380.

At Lufthansa's main hub in Frankfurt, Germany's biggest and Europe's third-biggest airport, just six out of a total 50 flights would go ahead, and three from 17 at Munich.

Services union Verdi called the 24-hour warning strike after three rounds of pay talks with management ended without any agreement.

Verdi is demanding a 5.2-percent pay increase for 33 000 Lufthansa ground staff, plus employees of various subsidiaries as well as cabin crew members who are Verdi members.

The escalating pay dispute comes a month after Lufthansa was forced to cancel nearly 700 out of a total 1,800 flights due to half a day of warning strikes.

Lufthansa board member Stefan Lauer has described the action as a "de facto an all-out strike" that was "a completely excessive measure that can in no way be justified in view of the current state of negotiations."

Verdi has accused management of "playing with employees' fears about their future and their jobs" in refusing to make any concrete guarantees.

The union has complained that the offer tabled by management represented an increase of 0.4-0.6 percent over a period of 12 months.

But Lufthansa insists its offer represents a pay increase of 2.3 percent for Lufthansa Technik, 2.1 percent for staff at Lufthansa Cargo and Lufthansa Systems and 1.7 percent for employees at the main company.

The situation at airports was nevertheless far from chaotic as the airline had published its contingency flight timetable at the weekend, informing passengers in advance which flights would be cancelled.

Tickets for the cancelled flights can be reimbursed or exchanged for an alternative flight and for services within Germany, passengers can switch to rail under an agreement with rail operator Deutsche Bahn, which also laid on extra trains and staff.

Lufthansa's low-cost subsidiary, Germanwings, was not affected by strikes.

Read more on:    lufthansa  |  travel international  |  flights

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