April 22 - Germany's largest airline Lufthansa was virtually grounded and cancelled nearly all of its flights on Monday due to the second strike in a month by employees over pay. Like its European competitors, Lufthansa is in the middle of a restructuring programme, looking to cut costs as it faces increasing competition from low-cost carriers and Gulf airlines. Joanna Partridge reports
UPSOUND Bringing Lufthansa to a standstill. The German airline was almost grounded on Monday due to a strike by workers over pay. Lufthansa scrapped 1700 flights, leaving only 30 running across all Germany's major airports, including Frankfurt - Europe's third largest. Lufthansa even cancelled most of its long-haul flights and was unable to carry 150,000 passengers. SOUNDBITE: Stanislaw Szczepanowski, Traveller, saying (German): "I don't have any sympathy with the strike. My flight to Seattle has been cancelled." The walkout by cabin crew and ground staff is the second strike in a month. Trade union Verdi which represents 33,000 workers at the airline is asking for a 5.2% pay rise. It says Lufthansa has only offered a 1.2% increase from October with a further 0.5% a year later. SOUNDBITE: Ingo Kronsfoth, Trade union secretary for Verdi's transportation division, saying (German): "The employer hasn't put forward any offer that includes job protection, and the pay increase equals just over 0 percent if you calculate it over 29 months. Adding in the cuts they're making, it's a clear negative for employees." Short warning strikes are a common tactic during disputes in Germany. Stefan Lauer from Lufthansa's executive board says the day-long action is out of proportion. SOUNDBITE: Stefan Lauer, Member of Lufthansa's Executive Board, saying (German): "The only remaining option is to call for rules of play that end this absurdity here and don't contribute to the situation where Germany's transport branch is becoming the laughing stock of the whole of Europe. I know of no other country with more strikes in this field than Germany." Lufthansa's in the middle of a restructuring programme. Commercial aviation consultant Lida Mantzavinou from Frost & Sullivan says it, like other European airlines, is facing wider challenges. SOUNDBITE: Lida Mantzavinou, Commerical airline consultant, Frost & Sullivan, saying (English): "We see that they are facing very strong competition by low-cost carriers within Europe, but also very strong competition by carriers from the Middle East that are entering the European market and they are planning to expand further, I'm referring to Etihad, Emirates, Qatar and Turkish Airlines." Germany's airports and railways have been hit with repeated strikes over the past two years. It might not be just Lufthansa's image that's being damaged by escalating industrial action.