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'They have rights but not a three-day strike'

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A pilot on strike at Frankfurt airport on Wednesday. Photo: DPA
08:50 CEST+02:00
The biggest strike to hit Lufthansa in its history entered its second day on Thursday with no sign of compromise in sight. Passengers at Berlin's Tegel airport told The Local they found pilots' grievances difficult to understand.

The three-day strike, called by union Cockpit, in a row over pilots’ pensions has grounded 3,800 flights and affected 425,000 passengers.

On Wednesday afternoon the atmosphere at Tegel airport was more or less business as usual, with all airlines apart from Lufthansa operating as normal.

Couples were still having joyful reunions at the arrival gates, confused tourists were still asking security guards for directions in broken English, and everything in the airport shop still costs three times the normal price.

But at Lufthansa's gates, the airport was a ghost town. The strike has forced Germany’s biggest airline to cancel 130 flights here.

Most of the desks were empty and the orange queuing ribbons strung across the hall had no impatient passengers to keep in line.

On the various departure boards, each Lufthansa flight was marked with a flashing red "gestrichen" – cancelled.

At one Lufthansa information desk, a few employees were still on duty. Occasionally, it seemed, they had to deal with passengers transferring or re-booking their flights for after the strike.

But even though not every passenger is flying Lufthansa, most at Tegel did have an opinion on the pilots’ action.

Bonnie Zillmann, 22, a student, told The Local: "I think it's fair that they're striking, because everybody wants the same thing - a better future for themselves and their families - and they have jobs that are hard on them.

“It's a lot of time away so sure, why not try to secure their future a little longer.

“My step-dad is a pilot so I know all about that life. Imagine doctors striking because of the same reason, everybody would lose themselves.

“They would be like 'oh my god, give them what they want' but people don't think in the long-run about pilots and that they'll be needing them as well.

“Just because it's one airline striking out of hundreds doesn't mean that the other airlines aren't going through the same thing.

“The pilots there are probably looking up to the pilots here."

But Ursula Korch, 59, a commodities buyer, said: "I’ve already made up my mind: it's not justified. It should be sorted out in other ways, not just by strikes that affect thousands of people who now can't fly – especially these days when we rely on these short journeys.

“I think there are other ways and means to get this done. They have a right to make demands, but not with a three-day strike.

“They're hardly the lowest earners. There are a lot of groups of people who earn significantly less, and others who have to work much longer, so I don't think it's justified.

"I'm flying to Düsseldorf for three days. By chance I'm flying with Air Berlin this time - normally I fly Lufthansa from Dresden, because I come from that region. That saved me by accident.

“A lot of my colleagues from Munich have had to re-book their flights. They are now flying via Salzburg, because at Munich everything has been cancelled."

One Lufthansa passenger, 54, who only gave his name as Klier, said: “I think the airline is in the right here, something needs to change because pilots are already very well looked after.

“On the other hand, I can understand, when the discussions have been going on for two years already, you feel you have to draw the line.

“Whether it's a good idea to strike for three whole days is more doubtful – I think it's too long. One day would have done."

SEE ALSO: Asylum seeker forces plane to land in Munich

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