Striking pilots to halt half of long-haul Lufthansa flights

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Berlin (dpa) – Striking pilots are to ground nearly half of long-haul flights at German airline Lufthansa on Tuesday.

The strikes will then shift to short- and medium-distance flights Wednesday, the pilot’s union said late Monday. It was unclear how the strike’s continuation would impact flight schedules.

After being told unionized pilots would refuse to work long flights from 8 am (0600 GMT) to midnight, the airline cancelled 84 scheduled long-haul flights, but said 90 would take off as normal with non-union crews under an emergency schedule.

All seven freight flights scheduled for the period would also go ahead, the airline said in Frankfurt.

It said it would rebook many other passengers on alternative airlines at no extra charge.

Lufthansa has 1,500 scheduled flights on a normal Tuesday, with long-haul only a fraction of overall movements.

VC opposes Lufthansa’s development of a new budget airline, Eurowings Europe, incorporated in Vienna, Austria, where German collective-labour deals do not apply.

Lufthansa is under pressure from investors to capture back market share from cheap airlines and Gulf-based long-haul operators with lower pay scales that have shaken up the airline industry in recent years.

The flight-crew union has no legal right to interfere in the low-pay plans, but is digging in its heels in long-running talks with the airline on preserving ample retirement benefits and salaries for some of the world’s best-paid pilots.

It accused the airline of bad faith by hiring new staff in Austria.

Lufthansa pilots have walked off the job 12 times since April 2014 to protest the airline’s cost-cutting measures.

The conflict has cost the company more than 300 million euros (338 million dollars), but Lufthansa has hung tough, backed by shareholders who want it to cut payroll costs.

Lufthansa Group employs about 5,400 pilots at the flag carrier Lufthansa, Lufthansa Cargo and Germanwings under German contracts.

Under Lufthansa’s plan to further slash crew costs, it will transfer one Germanwings jet per month to the Austrian low-pay unit.

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