Lufthansa pilots have started a walkout on the airline's lucrative long-haul flights, the second of three days of strike action, over early retirement benefits and cost-cutting efforts. As Hayley Platt reports the two-year-old dispute is costing the German flagship carrier dear.
Day two of yet another strike by pilots at Lufthansa. Half of it's 153 long-haul flights were cancelled - and there was still another day of action to go. 18,000 passengers had their travel plans disrupted. Barbara Schaedler is a spokeswoman for the airline. (SOUNDBITE) (German) LUFTHANSA SPOKESWOMAN, BARBARA SCHAEDLER, SAYING: "Thankfully we have very loyal customers. Although we notice a decline in bookings with every announced strike, fortunately it's only for a short period of time. Still, it's a loss of reputation and it's obviously something we would like to get behind us as quickly as possible." But there's no sign of that - the dispute is now in its second year. Pilots are against cost cutting and want to keep an early retirement scheme. They're currently able to stop work at 55 and receive up to 60 percent of their pay - full pension kicks in at 65. The German flagship carrier is trying to compete with low-cost airlines Ryanair and easyJet on European short-haul routes. And Turkish Airlines and Emirates on long-haul. Andrea Williams from Royal London Asset Management, says the problems aren't unique to Germany. SOUNDBITE: Andrea Williams, Fund Manager, Royal London Asset Management, saying (English): "It's the same as all the legacy airlines, Air France is probably the same. You're competing against the likes of Ryan Air and Easy Jet that run a totally different model, often don't have unions and don't have those generous pensions, so you can see why Lufthansa's trying to change." Lufthansa says it has made concessions, including giving pilots a 5% pay rise. But it won't budge on the issue of retirement - and that's a problem for the unions. (SOUNDBITE) (German) BOARD MEMBER "VEREINIGUNG COCKPIT" PILOTS' UNION, MARKUS WAHL, SAYING: "We felt forced to increase the pressure because after more than a year, Lufthansa is still not willing to constructively look for a solution together with us." Lufthansa has again asked pilots to return to the negotiating table. Keen no doubt to end a dispute which it's estimated is costing the airline around 15 million euros a day in lost profit.