April 2 - Lufthansa pilots have started a three-day walkout in a dispute over early retirement, effectively grounding Germany's largest airline. Joanna Partridge looks at the impact of the strike - one of the biggest to ever to hit the company.
An airline that's effectively grounded. Lufthansa's cancelled almost 4000 flights until Friday, due to a three-day strike by pilots over early retirement It's one of the biggest walkouts to hit Germany's flag carrier. And it's the third strike to affect Frankfurt airport in six weeks. But some passengers still had sympathy for the pilots. SOUNDBITE: AIRLINE PASSENGER, KLAUS DIETER BARTEL, SAYING (German): "They want to have their money and also secure their future, I can understand it." SOUNDBITE: AIRLINE PASSENGER, MARKUS WOELFER, SAYING (German): "I'm not affected. If I was, I probably wouldn't be amused because it seems like it happens too often." Lufthansa warned passengers in advance to try and limit disruption. Those without confirmed flights were asked to stay away. SOUNDBITE: LUFTHANSA SPOKESPERSON, BARBARA SCHAEDLER, SAYING (German): "We've done everything we could to rebook passengers and help them get trains or onto other airlines. They can still rebook their flights for the next three months for free if they've decided not to travel now." The pilots want the airline to reinstate a scheme which allowed them to receive 60% of their pay if they retired early. Joerg Handwerg is spokesman for the Vereinigung Cockpit union. SOUNDBITE: JOERG HANDWERG, SPOKESPERSON FOR THE UNION VEREINIGUNG COCKPIT, SAYING (German): "They will all be forced to work until at least 63 and Lufthansa wants to cash in the money which has been accrued. We don't agree with this and want a new contract." The strike comes as the airline sees the first fruits of its cost cutting and restructuring programme, which allowed it to restore its dividend payout. Airline analyst John Strickland says it needs to stand firm. SOUNDBITE: John Strickland, Director, JLS Consulting, saying (English): "Based on past history, Lufthansa has come to a rather conciliatory approach in its union negotiations, but it can't really afford to do that. It needs to make permanent cost savings, pilots are amongst the highest cost elements of the labour force for an airline and when they're competing against low cost airlines in Europe and lower cost base airlines for example in the Gulf and Asia, it has to do something to shift its own cost base for the future." Lufthansa estimates the strike will cost it tens of millions of euros in lost profit, just as it was turning the business around. But both sides in this dispute seem unlikely to back down soon.