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Lufthansa strike hits long distance flights

Latest update : 2008-07-31

Lufthansa is set to cancel long-distance flights for the first time since a strike over pay began on Monday, no doubt causing much disruption to holidaymakers. The biggest German airline also announced a drop in second-quarter net profit.

The biggest German airline, Lufthansa, cancelled long-distance flights Wednesday for the first time since cabin crews and ground personnel walked out on strike earlier this week, a spokesman said.

"We had to cancel 78 individual flights," Peter Schneckenleitner told AFP.

"This is four percent of all our flights," he added.

The cancelled service included round-trips to Calcutta, Calgary, Chicago and New York, Schneckenleitner said.

On Tuesday, the German flag carrier had grounded 70 flights, owing mainly to the lack of maintanence technicians at its main German airports.

The start of the strike by ground personnel Monday had seen few disruptions in the busy holiday season due to precautionary measures taken by Lufthansa.

The service sector union Verdi has estimated the strike would cost Lufthansa five million euros (7.8 million dollars) a day, but the airline's financial director declined Wednesday to cite a specific figure.

Verdi wants a 9.8 percent pay hike over a year for around 50,000 workers, while Lufthansa has offered 6.7 percent over 21 months.

In Frankfurt, around 2,000 striking workers gathered before the airline's headquarters on Wednesday.

"We should expect that it takes several days before Lufthansa comes back to the negotiating table," Verdi transport representative Gerold Schaub was quoted by the Frankfurter Runschau newspaper as saying.

Lufthansa faces a separate movement by pilots at two subsidiaries, Eurowings and CityLine, who have staged warning strikes to press their own demands for higher wages.

Lufthansa said Wednesday its second-quarter net profit had fallen by 21 percent to 345 million euros in comparison with a year-earlier figure that had benefitted from the airline's sale of a stake in the travel company Thomas Cook.

On Tuesday, the German carrier said its operating profit for all of 2008 was expected to reach last year's level of 1.38 billion euros.

But financial director Stephan Gemkow told a telephone news conference that it would pobably not do as well in 2009.

Lufthansa's bill for kerosene was tipped to hit a record 5.56 billion euros this year, compared with 3.86 billion in 2007.

The airline has also taken measures to save 250 million euros in part by reducing the number of workers it hires, though Gemkow said no layoffs were planned for now.

He said he could not say how much the strike could cost Lufthansa, but added: "It's expensive, that is sure."

In all, around 1,700 flights have been suspended to date at Lufthansa and its subsidiaries owing to labour action, Gemkow said.

Date created : 2008-07-30