German airline Lufthansa and pilots agreed Monday to resume talks, ending a one-day strike that grounded almost half of the flights at Europe's biggest carrier. The strike will be officially lifted at midnight.
AFP - German airline Lufthansa and pilots agreed Monday to resume talks, ending a one-day strike that grounded almost one half of flights at Europe's biggest airline.
The strike will be lifted at midnight (2300 GMT on Monday), and talks would resume "immediately and without conditions" a joint statement said.
A planned four-day strike by about 4,000 members of the Cockpit pilots union was averted as cabin crew at rival British Airways (BA) voted a strike of their own against changes to their working conditions, without setting a firm date.
An air traffic controllers' strike was set for Tuesday in France, meanwhile, as Europe's airline sector tried to keep labour unrest from joining an already robust list of problems.
Lufthansa, Europe's biggest airline by passenger numbers, had asked a Frankfurt court to prevent the pilots strike from continuing past its first day, calling the action "disproportionate".
An airline spokesman told AFP the carrier had managed to assure around 960 flights on Monday from the daily average of 1,800 after the strike by pilots to press demands over job security and pay issues.
Unions representing 16,000 Lufthansa cabin crew threatened to follow the pilots' lead if the firm failed to come to terms with them as well.
A wage contract with cabin crew expires on February 28, but management has failed to make a new offer and is refusing to hold talks, UFO union spokesman Nicoley Baublies said.
Lufthansa, like most rivals, is reeling from upheaval in the global airline sector.
Worst hit by the strike were the airline's hubs in Frankfurt, Europe's third biggest airport, and Munich.
Lufthansa Cargo, one of the world's biggest freight carriers, and the firm's low-cost subsidiary Germanwings were also affected, though the cargo unit said more than 85 percent of its capacity had been covered on Monday.
Cockpit spokesman Joerg Handwerg nonetheless told AFP the strike had been "a great success."
The union says it is trying to defend the terms of a contract signed with Lufthansa in 2004.
"We have a contract and Lufthansa is breaking it" by boosting the number of flights operated by subsidiaries with lower costs, Handwerg explained.
Starting pilots at the parent group earn an annual pre-tax wage of 60,000 euros (81,600 dollars) according to its website, and one with more than 15 years with the airline told AFP his pay was double that.
With the strike announced last week and the airline informing passengers in advance, the situation at Frankfurt's airport on Monday had been orderly since many travellers had made other arrangements.
But others had to scramble, including Nigerian Hope Odia, 41, who was trying to make it back home for his father's funeral, while his nephew Chester Ade waited to see if something could be arranged.
"This is terrible," Ade told AFP. "The stress is getting greater and greater."
European airlines have been fighting for survival meanwhile as they battle with the triple challenges of low-cost airlines poaching customers, soaring fuel costs and the worst global recession in decades.
Lufthansa has nonetheless bulked up during the crisis via the purchase of a number of smaller carriers such as BMI, the former British Midland, and Swiss, formerly Swissair, and by creating its own subsidiary in Italy.
In France, a planned strike by air traffic controllers was set to disrupt a quarter of the flights from Paris' main airport Charles de Gaulle on Tuesday, authorities there said.
Date created : 2010-02-22