German airline warned Friday of widespread cancellations in the coming days as cabin staff begin a week of walkouts in a long-running battle over savings aimed at fending off competition from low-cost rivals.
The flight attendants’ union UFO said its members would begin their industrial action at 1300 GMT on Friday, initially at the hubs of Frankfurt and Duesseldorf, with further stoppages planned on Saturday.
The strike on Friday will be for nine hours and last until 2200 GMT, UFO said in a statement amid a long-running dispute over pay and early retirement provisions.
The union plans to stagger the walkouts and target different airports over the course of the next seven days, with a repeat of the stoppages planned in Frankfurt and Duesseldorf on Saturday.
However, Lufthansa’s Munich hub would not be affected at all this weekend, given that there were still school holidays in the southern regional states of Bavaria and Baden-Wuerttemberg, it explained.
In addition, “no industrial action is planned at all on Sunday since most people travelling that day will be doing so in a private capacity,” UFO said.
UFO had announced on Thursday that industrial action was “unavoidable” after management had failed to come up with an improved offer.
Lufthansa said it “regretted” the short notice of the strikes, which would put passengers “in a very difficult position.”
– Hotel rooms booked –
The airline said it aimed to maintain “at least eight long-haul flights” departing from Frankfurt during the stoppage. But on short and medium flights within Europe there would be “widespread cancellations”.
It had provisionally booked 2,500 hotel rooms in and around Frankfurt for passengers grounded by the strikes.
Lufthansa insisted that it had conceded to all of the union’s demands.
Only Lufthansa passenger services would be hit, while the subsidiaries Air Dolomiti, Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines, Eurowings, Germanwings, Lufthansa CityLine and Swiss would not be affected, the airline said.
Lufthansa said it would draw up and publish a contingency flight timetable later on Friday morning.
The UFO union said it will give sufficient advance warning of when the strikes will take place.
It is first time that cabin staff have staged walkouts in the nearly two-year long dispute.
UFO is demanding the current system of early retirement provisions remain unchanged.
The dispute with cabin staff is separate from a long-running battle between management and pilots over company plans to change the pilots’ early retirement arrangements.
Lufthansa wants to scrap an arrangement under which pilots can retire at 55 and receive up to 60 percent of their pay until they reach the statutory retirement age of 65.
Pilots, who are concerned about Lufthansa’s aim to further develop its low-cost activities as it faces growing competition, have staged repeated walkouts during the dispute.
Last week, Lufthansa said it was raising its full-year forecasts after low oil prices and positive passenger numbers lifted profits in the third quarter.
Investors appeared unperturbed by the latest stoppage and Lufthansa shares were the biggest gainers on the Frankfurt stock exchange on Friday, adding 1.85 percent in a generally softer market.