Why are Lufthansa pilots striking — and what does it mean for the future of Lufthansa and its passengers?
Lufthansa pilots plan a one-day strike in Frankfurt and Munich airports.
After failed pay negotiations, Lufthansa pilots are going on strike for one day on Friday, Sept. 2. The strike will officially begin after midnight, but some flights set to take off late Thursday night will also be impacted.
The Vereinigung Cockpit (VC) union is leading the strike. In response to the strike, a Lufthansa spokesperson stated the company hopes to get back to business as soon as possible, but that “we cannot bear the cost increases associated with VC's demands.”
Flight cancelations will be hit hard.
The one-day strike has caused the airline to cancel 800 flights on Sept. 2 alone. That’s 130,000 passengers who will be left to find other options. If the strike persists, these numbers will rise astronomically. Still, Lufthansa believes its offer is “socially balanced,” as Michael Niggemann, Chief Human Resources Officer and Labor Director of Lufthansa, puts it.
Lufthansa blames the flight cancelations on pilots striking (Niggemann says, “This escalation comes at the expense of many thousands of customers”). However, the pilots’ side of the story suggests Lufthansa’s unwillingness to comply with demands has left them with no other option.
On July 31, VC voted in favor of supporting an ongoing collective bargaining commission. VC said at the time, “This positive ballot does not yet necessarily lead to strike action. But it is an unmistakable signal to Lufthansa to take the needs of cockpit staff seriously.”
Lufthansa pilots’ strike focuses on certain demands.
The union wants a 5.5-percent pay increase for 5,000+ pilots, plus inflation adjustments after that.
Lufthansa came forward with an offer, but it didn't meet the demands. The offer was an additional 900 euros ($894.26) in basic pay on a monthly basis. Lufthansa agreed to an 18-month term for this condition, plus giving cockpit staff a minimum fleet size.
VC says, “The pilots' demands focus on compensation for the loss of real wages. Another central point of the demands to the employer is the [equalization] of the remuneration system in the staff body while at the same time increasing the attractiveness of the lower wage levels.”
This isn’t the first employee strike Lufthansa has faced this year. Security workers and ground staff already went on strike after failed negotiations with the company. The workers ultimately agreed to an 8.3-percent pay increase. For reference, Germany’s inflation rate is expected to hit 7.9 percent in the 12 months ending in August.
Lufthansa trades on the over-the-counter markets under the ticker symbol DLAKY. Its stock is down 3.6+ percent as of mid-morning on Sept. 1. Future flight availability remains up in the air for Lufthansa and its passengers, and expansion to other hubs beyond Munich and Frankfurt is possible.