During the first week of November, hundreds of Lufthansa employees joined together to hold a strike for two days. The walkout and strike, which occurred across airports in Germany on November 7th 2019 & November 8th 2019, resulted in all Lufthansa operations screeching to a halt as the German airline carrier was left without any staff support.
The strike affected an estimated 180,000 passengers. Apart from the massive delays experienced by travellers, as many as 1300 Lufthansa flights were cancelled during the 48-hour ordeal.
The strike – which was organised to create awareness about the poor pay and work conditions of Lufthansa employees – is expected to have billed losses amounting to £56 million for the airline carrier.
Union apologises to customers, but states the strike is “unavoidable”
Just hours before the start of the strike, German flight attendant union The Independent Flight Attendant Organisation (UFO) took to social media and issued an apology to passengers for the unexpected disruptions to their travel plans.
In continuation, they said that the strike was long called for and unavoidable, given the failed labour negotiations between UFO and Lufthansa. UFO had demanded better pay, more accessible flight routes, and conversion of temp workers to full-time employees – each of which was rejected by the German carrier.
According to National Public Radio’s international correspondent Rob Schmitz, talks had been in progress for months. However, discussions ended in a stalemate, and UFO sought legal permission from the authorities to stage a walkout and strike.
Travellers take to social media to vent their woes
The two most-affected cities were Frankfurt and Munich. Out of the 1362 flights that were scheduled to take off from Frankfurt, 414 were cancelled. Similarly, over 200 flights were scrapped in Munich.
Hundreds of other flights were delayed for hours. Other airline carriers too experienced delays as Lufthansa aircraft had to be taken off the runway to make space for take-offs and landings.
Frustrated travellers sought the solace of social media to give words to their displeasure. In response, Lufthansa offered stand-by services to stranded passengers in the form of complimentary flight re-bookings, train vouchers, and accommodation.
Refunds were also offered to fliers who didn’t want to travel through the airline. However, this too turned out to be an unsatisfactory solution as thousands of passengers were stuck on jammed phone lines and were unable to reach customer service for help.
Strike-induced delay to affect holiday season travel as well
Despite the strike having ended in the late hours of November 8th 2019, the aftermath of the event is expected to affect holiday travellers too.
Just days before the strike, Lufthansa announced that it would implement cost-cutting measures to meet the prices offered by its competitors. Although the company hasn’t announced how it plans to do this, many believe that the cuts could involve pay and pension reductions. This is expected to create more staff-airline skirmishes in the next few weeks, leading to travel delays during the holidays.
As for Lufthansa’s other airlines – Brussels Airlines, Austrian Airlines and Eurowings – none of their operations is expected to be affected by the parent company’s staff strikes.