About 1,350 flights of Deutsche Lufthansa AG for Monday and Tuesday have been cancelled as the airline’s pilots plan to strike work over a retirement benefits dispute. The cancellations are expected to affect over 150,000 passengers.
The dispute over early retirement plans for the pilots has already led to eight strikes so far this year, and, according to the airline, the strikes have cost the company 160 million euros ($199 million) in operating profits. The German pilots’ union Vereinigung Cockpit (VC) represents nearly 5,400 pilots and is opposing the company’s attempt to do away with a plan that allows pilots to retire at 55, and receive 60 percent of their regular salary until the standard retirement age of 65.
“We must find solutions – in the interests of all our employees, our customers and our shareholders – that will ensure the long-term viability of our company for the decades ahead,” Carsten Spohr, the group's chairman, said, in a statement Sunday, adding: “And we cannot afford to overlook this vital priority in our current collective labor agreement negotiations, either.”
Short, medium and long-haul flights will be affected by the nationwide strike, which will begin Monday at midday local time (6:00 a.m. EST) and will continue until 11:59 p.m. (5:59 p.m. ET) on Tuesday, Lufthansa said, in another statement. For long-haul flights, the strike will begin from 3:00 a.m. local time Tuesday (9:00 p.m. ET on Monday) and will continue till 11:59 pm (05:59 p.m. ET) on Tuesday. Pilots from Lufthansa's cargo division will also go on strike from 3:00 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday.
Lufthansa, which is battling rising costs and intense competition, also cut its profit projections for 2015 for the second time this year. The airline is also expanding its low-cost service to counter tough competition from other carriers.
“We can see that the economic slowdown and the continuing declines in our passenger yields in the face of such fierce competition will affect our operating scope in the year ahead. This is why we need to modify our projections for 2015, even though we expect it to produce an operating result that is significantly above this year’s,” Simone Menne, a senior finance official for the airline, said, in the statement, adding: “Given the high investments awaiting us, we must further improve our operating result. The need to do so, and our rising indebtedness, are clear signs to us that we must take appropriate corrective action here in the form of the structural transformations that we are currently embarking on.”