Lufthansa cancels 110 flights on Wed as Munich pilots strike

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 09, 2014 12:40 PM

BERLIN (Reuters) - Lufthansa canceled 110 Munich flights on Wednesday, it said on Tuesday, affecting thousands of passengers after pilots' union Vereinigung Cockpit called for a third strike at the German airline in two weeks.

The proposed strike at Munich, Lufthansa's biggest airport after Frankfurt, will run from 0800-1600 GMT on Wednesday, the union said on Tuesday. Lufthansa usually operates around 320 flights to and from the airport during that time.

The pilots want to increase pressure on Lufthansa in negotiations over an early retirement scheme. They held a strike at its budget carrier Germanwings at the end of August, followed by a walkout at Frankfurt last week.

Lufthansa, which has called on the pilots to return to the negotiating table, said the strike would not result in long-haul flights being canceled, although there could be some delays. Long-haul flights are the most lucrative flights for Lufthansa.

"Some pilots who want to fly despite the strike have already come forward," Lufthansa said in a statement on Tuesday, adding that the eight-hour strike would affect the travel plans of 13,500 passengers.

Shares in Lufthansa closed down 1.5 percent at 13.60 euros, compared with a 0.5 percent fall in the wider Dax index.

DZ Bank analyst Dirk Schlamp said he estimated the latest strike would cost Lufthansa around 2-4 million euros in lost operating profit.

"But another negative effect will likely be that passengers will book with other airlines out of concern that more strikes are on the way," he told Reuters.

Vereinigung Cockpit represents about 5,400 of Lufthansa Group's 9,000 pilots and the previous two strikes have cost the airline more than 10 million euros ($12.9 million) in operating profit and have hit bookings.

A three-day pilots' walkout in April wiped 60 million euros from first-half operating profit at the airline, which is undergoing restructuring and cost cuts as it seeks to better compete with fast-growing Middle East and low-cost carriers.

One of Lufthansa's top 15 shareholders said Lufthansa Chief Executive Carsten Spohr should not give in to the union's demands.

"Spohr has to stay tough, perhaps get even tougher," Michael Gierse, a portfolio manager at Union Investment told Reuters.

(Reporting by Victoria Bryan; Additional reporting by Peter Maushagen; Editing by David Goodman and Susan Thomas)