Lufthansa pilots back to work after court order

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Pilots at German airline Lufthansa reported back to work Wednesday, ending a crippling two-day strike at the orders of a German labour court.

But Lufthansa said it could not resume normal service at such short notice and a barebones timetable for the day remained in force. The walkout forced the cancellation of about 1,000 of 1,520 scheduled flights, Europe’s largest carrier said.

Lufthansa said that, of 180,000 passengers booked for the day, 140,000 could not be carried on their scheduled flights. Non-union pilots flew planes that still operated. Subsidiaries such as Germanwings, Air Dolomiti, Swiss and Austrian Airlines remained airborne as normal.

The labour tribunal for the western state of Hesse granted the airline a temporary injunction against the pilots union, Vereinigung Cockpit, after hearing an urgent appeal. It following a lower court ruling in Frankfurt that had approved the strike late Tuesday.

The union said its members complied with the latest ruling.

Lufthansa alleged the strike was illegal because the union is not seeking more pay or benefits but interfering in company policy.

The union has attacked Lufthansa’s creation and expansion of an Austrian-based subsidiary, Eurowings, which pays pilots less and is taking over many routes in a cost-cutting reorganization at the group.

The court agreed it had the impression that the union was seeking to have a say about Lufthansa’s low-cost plans, which is not an objective that entitled it to strike under German law.

Investors have strongly backed the company’s bid to slash payroll costs and improve lagging profits.

The unionized pilots walked off the job for the 13th time since April last year in a campaign in which preservation of generous retirement pay is the ostensible issue. They hit long-haul flights Tuesday, then widened the walkout to short and medium-haul jumps Wednesday.

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