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Lufthansa to cancel 10% of European flights

Latest update : 2008-07-31

As the open-ended strike over pay by its cabin and ground staff continues, Lufthansa has announced that 10% of its German and European flights will be cancelled over the next five days. The impact on passengers is expected to increase over time.

Germany's Deutsche Lufthansa will scrap about 10 percent of its flights to German and European destinations in the next five days in response to a strike by ground and cabin staff over pay, it said on Wednesday.

Europe's biggest airline by passenger numbers said in a statement late on Wednesday it was introducing a new flight schedule to minimise disruption for passengers.

About 5,000 members of the Verdi services union started an open-ended strike on Monday, and though delays and cancellations have been relatively slight so far, the union says it expects the impact to increase over time.

Lufthansa had already cancelled about 80 of its 2,000 daily flights on Wednesday as aircraft could not be made ready.

The carrier had also cancelled long-haul flights for the first time during the strike, including four routes to northern America and flights to India and Dubai. Lufthansa said it would announce a new schedule for long-haul flights soon.

Some analysts estimate the walkouts could cost the company 5 million euros a day, and Lufthansa Chief Financial Officer Stephan Gemkowhi said the strike could weigh on the carrier's efforts to match last year's operating result this year.

"How long will the strike last? No idea," he told a conference call after the company announced first-half results and warned about the longer-term impact of soaring fuel costs.

Lufthansa shares fell 1.46 percent on Wednesday, while the wider German DAX Index was up 0.96 percent.

Germany's BDI industry association called on the Verdi union to return to the negotiating table.

"The strike is damaging air traffic, tourism, logistics and the whole economy," said BDI Managing Director Werner Schnappauf in a statement.

"It is too much when some people push their interests with a strike without looking at the economic consequences," he said.

Verdi, which represents some 50,000 ground and cabin staff at Lufthansa, wants an immediate 9.8 percent pay rise. Lufthansa is offering 6.7 percent over 21 months and a one-off payment.

"We're here because we want more money," said striking Lufthansa worker Richard Matthay at Munich airport. "But our main concern is for Lufthansa to restart the talks with us, so that this strike can end as quickly as possible."

Some 91 percent of union members backed the strike in a ballot.

Lufthansa has called on the union to resume talks to end the strike as quickly as possible, though a spokesman would not say whether it was considering making a new pay offer.

Passengers would be rebooked onto other services with Lufthansa or its Star Alliance partners, the airline said.

Date created : 2008-07-31

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