Lufthansa pilots vote for potential strike action

Aug 3, 2022

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Lufthansa pilots voted in favor 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, the union said that the walkouts could be avoided if management takes steps to resolve the dispute, but the union 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 damaged by disruptions, caused by a range of factors including staff shortages and widespread worker unrest over post-pandemic pay and conditions.

“We respect the outcome of the recent VC ballot,” a Lufthansa spokesperson told TPG Wednesday. “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.”

Lufthansa planes
A Lufthansa pilot strike could potentially ground flights all over the world. (Photo by Boris Roessler/Getty Images)

A Lufthansa pilot strike could potentially affect tens of thousands of passengers all over the world. The airline serves more than 250 airports in 77 countries worldwide, including airports in London, Madrid, Cape Town and Geneva.

In America alone, the airline serves 20 airports including those in Anchorage, Alaska; Atlanta; Boston; Chicago; Dallas; Denver; Detroit; Houston; Los Angeles; Miami; New York; Orlando; San Francisco; Seattle; and Washington, D.C., from Frankfurt. From Munich it operates nonstop flights to Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles and New York.

Related: Lufthansa cancels almost all flights in Germany over strikes

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; a strike later that month would cause more issues for business travelers.

“U.S. travelers 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 prioritize 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’s Heathrow Airport (LHR) and London City Airport (LCY), as well as airports in 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; there were, on average, 18 flights scheduled to depart the airport each day to its Frankfurt and Munich bases.

Swiss plane
Pilots at Lufthansa’s subsidiary Swiss Air rejected a new contract proposal from management Sunday. (Photo courtesy of Airbus)

The news comes a week after Lufthansa was rocked by strike action from its ground staff, which forced the carrier to cancel more than 1,000 flights.

Related: British Airways workers call off Heathrow strike after 8% pay increase agreed

In a further blow to the airline, pilots at Lufthansa’s subsidiary Swiss Air rejected a new contract proposal from management 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 labor union said.

Featured photo by Nicolas Economou/Getty Images.

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