Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Lufthansa Pilots Vote to Strike Next Week

FRANKFURT — Pilots for Lufthansa and two of its subsidiaries voted Wednesday to hold a four-day strike next week, raising the prospect of delays and cancellations for customers of the largest German airline.
The Cockpit Association, which represents about 4,500 pilots at Lufthansa and two subsidiaries, said that 94 percent of members had voted to strike from February 22nd - 25th 2010.
Work would cease from just after midnight Monday to midnight Thursday and affect flights by Lufthansa as well as the Lufthansa Cargo unit and the no-frills carrier, Germanwings.
The airline and the union broke off talks in December after failing to reach agreement on the pilots’ demand that Lufthansa promise not to lay off any cockpit crew.
The pilots said that the airline, which uses Frankfurt International Airport as its main hub, wants to shift passengers to subsidiaries like Austrian Airlines and British Midland, which pay their flight crews less.
Jörg Handwerg, a pilot and spokesman for the union, said that the pilots would consider forsaking a pay raise in return for job guarantees. “For us job security is crucial,” Mr. Handwerg said during an interview by
telephone. “We want to keep the jobs in Germany.”
Lufthansa said in a statement that it is ready to offer assurances on jobs, but that pilots made other unacceptable demands. “The union also insisted on a greater say on fundamental entrepreneurial issues, equating to intervention in business management at the airline,” Lufthansa said. “That demand cannot be accepted.”
Both sides said they remained willing to bargain.

The strike vote comes as Lufthansa continues to suffer declines in bookings and profit. In the first nine months of 2009, its last reported period, the company lost €32 million, or $44 million, compared to a net profit of €529 million in the period a year earlier. Sales fell 13 percent to €16.2 billion.

A Lufthansa spokeswoman, Claudia Lange, said that it was too early to say how severely the strike would disrupt air traffic. The airline may be able to partly compensate by using partners or other carriers.
Passengers will be able to rebook flights without paying a penalty, Ms. Lange said, and will also receive full refunds if they choose not to fly during the strike period or if their flights are canceled.

Passengers who are already booked on a Lufthansa flight during February 22 to 25, 2010, and wish to change their travel plans can rebook once free of charge to another Lufthansa flight -- provided their ticket is issued before February 18, 2010 and their new travel date is before March 31, 2010. Their departure and arrival destinations must also remain the same.
Applicable rules for flight cancellations caused by strike action:
Should the purpose of a journey become null and void because of a flight cancellation, passengers can annul their flight booking free of charge.
Please contact us for any further information or questions!

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