FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Almost 300 flights were cancelled at Frankfurt, Europe's third largest airport, on Friday after a small group of workers on the airport apron resumed a strike over pay and said the action could continue next week.
The GdF trade union called on 200 workers to strike after failing to reach a pay deal with airport operator Fraport, which says the workers' demands are too high.
A spokesman for the GdF union said while no strike action was planned for the weekend, they could resume action next week if Fraport did not meet their demands. They must give 24 hours' notice before any further strike action.
Fraport said it had signaled its willingness to return to the negotiating table but that it had not yet heard anything from the union regarding the possibility of more talks.
The union called the strike for 1400-2100 GMT Thursday and 0700-2100 GMT Friday. It wants higher pay because the workers' jobs have become more complex with the fourth runway that started operating in October.
Fraport has said the demands for increases in pay of up to 70 percent are "irresponsible" and called on the union to compromise.
Frankfurt is Europe's third busiest airport behind London Heathrow and Paris Charles de Gaulle, serving over 56 million passengers in 2011 and employing over 70,000 people.
The strike means that more than 280 out of the roughly 1,300 flights scheduled for Friday would not run, Fraport said, after 172 flights were cancelled Thursday.
The vast majority of the flights cancelled were operated by German flagship airline Deutsche Lufthansa, which has sacrificed flights within Europe and Germany in order to keep long-haul traffic in the air.
Fraport said it was confident of being able to ensure at least 50 percent of flights Friday. It is using operations management and non-union staff to fill in the roles usually done by the striking workers, such as guiding planes to parking places.
Many passengers have already been rebooked onto new flights by airlines and tour operators before travelling to the airport, or had their tickets exchanged for Germany's high-speed train network.
Fraport said around 70 percent of flights operated on Thursday and no passenger had to spend the night in the airport's transit area.
So far, it has not resorted to legal measures, such as temporary injunction, to avert the strike.
Court action was last year used to avert a planned strike by German air traffic controllers during the peak summer period and in 2010 pilots from Air Berlin and Lufthansa were forced by judges to call off strikes.
(Reporting by Victoria Bryan and Peter Maushagen; Editing by Jodie Ginsberg)