Lufthansa pilots vote for potential strike action
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Lufthansa pilots have voted in favour of potential strike action over pay, threatening further disruption during the peak of the summer travel season.
The Vereinigung Cockpit union is calling for a 5.5% pay increase this year and an automatic adjustment for inflation starting next year. It says that, despite six rounds of talks, the German flagship carrier is yet to make a serious offer.
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Offering a potential lifeline to the German airline, however, the union said that the walkouts were avoidable if management takes steps to resolve the dispute, but called the vote “an unmistakable signal to Lufthansa to take the cockpit staff’s needs seriously.”
If a strike were to happen, it would pile further pressure on an industry already blighted by disruptions, caused by a range of factors including staff shortages and widespread worker unrest over post-pandemic pay and conditions.
A Lufthansa spokesperson told TPG today: “We respect the outcome of the recent VC ballot. Lufthansa is continuing to engage in constructive talks with the pilots union VC in order to find a joint solution for our pilots. The next meeting dates have already been arranged with the VC.”
A Lufthansa pilot strike could potentially affect tens of thousands of passengers all over the world, from Germany to the U.K., America and across Europe.
The airline serves more than 250 airports in 77 countries worldwide, including New York, London, Los Angeles, Chicago, Madrid, Cape Town, Manila, Geneva and more.
In America alone, it serves 20 airports: Anchorage, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York (EWR and JFK), Orlando, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, from Frankfurt. From Munich it operates non-stop to Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles and Newark.
Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst and the president of Atmosphere Research Group, told NBC News that a strike before mid-September could have a significant impact on international leisure travel, while a strike later that month would cause more issues for business travellers. “U.S. travellers shouldn’t push the panic button just yet, but they better know where it’s located,” he said.
He told the news channel that Lufthansa would likely prioritise flights to America and Western Europe as it tries to mitigate potential disruption to its primary routes. “But, no matter how hard it tries, I doubt it will be able to operate every flight on every route between Germany and the U.S.,” Harteveldt added.
It would be a similar story in Europe, where Lufthansa does the lion’s share of its business. In the U.K., for example, it connects Frankfurt and Munich to London Heathrow and London City, as well as Bristol, Birmingham, Newquay, Edinburgh, Manchester, Newcastle, Liverpool and Glasgow.
In fact, according to aviation data analytics firm Cirium, Lufthansa was Heathrow’s fifth biggest user in May 2022, with an average of 18 flights scheduled to depart the airport each day to its Frankfurt and Munich bases.
The news comes a week after Lufthansa was rocked by strike action by its ground staff on Wednesday, which forced the carrier to cancel more than 1,000 flights.
And in a further blow to the airline, pilots at Lufthansa’s SWISS subsidiary rejected a new contract proposal from management on Sunday.
“If management continues not to recognize the signs of the times and does not immediately offer adequate solutions, then the pilots must show the management even more clearly how dissatisfied they are,” their Aeropers labour union said.
Featured image by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images.
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