As a massive 48-hour strike by flight attendants at German flag carrier Lufthansa got underway in Munich and Frankfurt today, the airline finally relented and extended an olive branch in the form of a firm offer to restart talks with the UFO cabin crew union. More than 90,000 passengers have been affected today after Lufthansa was forced to 700 flights having failed to win a court injunction to block the walkout from going ahead.
During both days of the strike, Lufthansa estimates that 180,000 passengers will be impacted as a result of 1,3000 flight cancellations.
Carsten Spohr, the airline’s chief executive publicly announced earlier today that representatives from the disputed union would be invited to new negotiations and that the airline would take up an offer of arbitration that had been suggested by the UFO in a bid to break the deadlock.
Spohr reportedly made the decision after consulting with representatives from two rival unions last night. The UFO had also been invited to the “high-level discussion” but representatives pulled out at the last minute when Lufthansa decided to submit an appeal over the injunction ruling.
After Lufthansa’s sudden change of heart, the flight attendants union announced they would put off announcing any further strike action – something they had been planning on doing this morning. Tomorrow’s strike, however, is expected to still go ahead, along with a rally and march of flight attendants at Frankfurt airport.
Does anyone know what the strike is actually about?
If, though, you’re a little confused about what the strike is all about then you’re not alone. According to the German daily Der Spiegel, around 43 per cent of German’s have no idea why Lufthansa’s flight attendants have decided to down tools.
In an attempt to clear up the confusion, the union announced a list of demands including a pay rise of €5 per day in expenses for Lufthansa mainline flight attendants. Meanwhile, the union wants its members at Lufthansa CityLine to receive a 2 per cent pay rise, and Eurowings cabin crew are fighting for better pension rights.
The dispute at Germanwings, according to the union, is over their right to part-time work and SunExpress flight attendants are apparently fighting for a 5 per cent pay rise.
But while that’s the official reason for the current walkout, the union is also fighting Lufthansa over its refusal to accept its legitimacy or even hold talks with them.
Meanwhile, Lufthansa is facing criticism over its decision to block affected passengers from claiming so-called ‘denied boarding’ compensation under EU261 rules. Describing the strike as a “force majeure”, the airline says a German court has previously ruled that strike action does not trigger EU Passenger Rights Rules. The airline will, however, refund costs like hotel accommodation and meal expenses.
The airline also came under fire yesterday when it was revealed that a slew of cost-saving measures was being implemented to its long-haul Economy and Premium Economy product – most notably that the second meal service would be significantly pared down and would no longer feature a hot meal.
Publishing its third-quarter results earlier today, Lufthansa said earnings before tax for the period had dropped 8 per cent to €1.3 billion compared to the same stage in 2018. Ulrik Svensson, the group’s finance chief said that in challenging market conditions it was “more vital than ever that we consistently take every action within our influence and further reduce our costs.”