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Strikes disrupt traffic at five German airports

Xinhua | Updated: 2024-02-08 02:35

Lufthansa ground staff attend a strike in Frankfurt, Germany on Feb 7. [Photo/Agencies]

BERLIN -- Strikes by ground staff at German flag carrier Lufthansa disrupted traffic at five airports on Wednesday, affecting more than 100,000 passengers in Frankfurt am Main, Munich, Hamburg, Berlin and Dusseldorf.

At Germany's largest airport, Frankfurt airport, up to 90 percent of 600 arrivals and departures were canceled. While Munich and Dusseldorf were less affected, none of the planned Lufthansa flights in the capital Berlin, as well as in Hamburg, were able to take off.

The strikes were "an escalation that would not have been necessary," Lufthansa Chief Human Resources Officer Michael Niggemann told public broadcaster ZDF on Wednesday, calling it a "bitter day for our passengers."

Niggemann said that Lufthansa's current proposal of 13 percent higher wages over three years is "really a good offer," but the company is also facing "enormous investment needs" and economic responsibility.

Lufthansa's ground staff are demanding a 12.5 percent pay rise over a much shorter term of one year: at least 500 euros ($538) per month. They are also calling for an inflation adjustment bonus of 3,000 euros, and improved conditions for shift work.

"Our demands are the least we can do to end the staff shortage and the chaos in air traffic," said Marvin Reschinsky, chief negotiator for the Verdi union, on Tuesday. "Despite record profits, Lufthansa is investing too little in staff," he added.

Following the pandemic, air traffic in Europe was crumbling under renewed demand, leading to a chaotic summer for flights in 2022. Since then, airlines and airports have been trying to gradually increase staffing levels again. As in the previous year, Lufthansa is planning to hire 13,000 new staff in 2024.

For air travelers in Frankfurt, the strikes on Wednesday are the second traffic disruption caused by walkouts within a week. On Sunday and Monday, pilots at Lufthansa subsidiary Discover Airlines forced the small company to cancel almost all of its flights.

"The dispute is once again being carried out on the backs of uninvolved parties," said Ralph Beisel, managing director of the German airports association ADV, adding that travelers are "becoming a pawn." 

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