On February 12, 2015 pilots from Lufthansa’s low-cost airline Germanwings, went on a two-day strike. This airline news about Germanwings dominated the month of February, especially since pilots from Lufthansa had many such strikes during 2014 as well.
The reasons for the February 2015 strike
Of late, there have been disagreements between Vereinigung Cockpit (VC) – the pilots’ union and the Lufthansa management. The rows have been about Lufthansa management’s decision to change the pension plans of the pilots. The current status is that pilots who retire at the age of 55 will receive 60 percent payments until the age of 65, which is the age for statutory retirement. The management was all for scraping this arrangement. The pilots went on strike due to this decision by the company. Lufthansa management now wants to revise the earliest age, citing reasons such as changing life expectancies.
There are other minor disagreements as well. The pilots want the management to have mediation talks on its low-cost flight expansion plans. But the management has refused to comply with any such requests. However, the strikes were a result of disagreements over labour laws. The Lufthansa management feels that such arguments are futile as the new agreement would only affect new pilot hiring and would remain unchanged for current employees. As of now, the management and the VC have not reached an agreement.
The ramifications of the February 2015 strike
Those keeping up with Germanwings flight news might be privy to the information that there were close to 10 strikes by the pilots in 2014. These repeated strikes have definitely affected Lufthansa’s profits. The February 2015 strike affected operations of close to 900 flights that included both domestic as well as flights to European destinations.
Lufthansa management, however, said that it would be able to operate close to 60 percent of the affected flights as it would borrow available pilots from other airlines. The strikes last year ended up costing the company more than 10 million Euros; maybe more. The first day of the February strikes affected flight schedules as the company had to cancel around 340 scheduled flights.
The strikes, no doubt, adversely affected company’s profits, but they also affected passengers. Those keeping track of Germanwings flight news might have been able to change their flight schedules at the last minute. But the news might have not reached all passengers as the VC only gave notice to the management. The management decided to pay rail tickets to some passengers affected by flights.
It is, however, unclear how many affected passengers received the rail tickets. Germanwings was not liable to pay affected passengers for delays as airline companies are not liable to pay any claims due to delays from strikes as per EC 261/2004 laws. But the company was still required to help the affected passengers with meals, accommodation and transport support. Passengers who knew that the airlines wouldn’t be paying any compensation for delays might have benefited from moving to other airlines.