Travelers impacted by the strike on Thursday wait at Cologne Bonn airport. Photo: DPA.
The day-long strike by a Eurowings cabin crew union is expected to impact some 40,000 passengers on Thursday as hundreds of flights have been cancelled.
The cabin crew strike organized by union UFO has already taken its toll on Lufthansa's budget airlines Eurowings and Germanwings as of Thursday morning.
Nearly all internal flights within Germany have been cancelled, Eurowings said, as well as some international flights within Europe: in total about 400 flights out of 550 have been cancelled. Long-distance flights have not been impacted by the strike.
Around 40,000 travellers on both Germanwings and Eurowings have been affected by the cancellations. Another 150 scheduled flights with 15,000 passengers have also been impacted by the strike, but these are set to still take off.
To make up for the strike, Eurowings has offered affected customers the chance to change or cancel their flights for free. The airline also plans to hire employees from other companies to take on the flights for holidaymakers returning home from vacation.
UFO asked for understanding from travellers who have been dealt a blow by the strike.
“A strike is not a pleasant event for anyone involved. You as the customer of the disputed company have to change your private as well as your work-related plans. Our colleagues have to do additional work in order to help you as affected customers as much as possible,” the union wrote in a statement on their website.
“But we too, the flight attendants on strike, would have preferred to forgo the strike… [but] we have been negotiating with our employer for years up until we decided to take this step. It is not about carving out luxury privileges, but the question of how to mitigate the enormous burden of pay negotiations.”
UFO leader Nicoley Baublies defended the strike on Thursday to broadcaster ZDF, saying the union still had the “same goals” and hinted that further strikes could come if Eurowings management does not meet their terms.
“That Eurowings was willing to meet us with a pay raise of 7 percent is only being spread through the media. We have not received this offer,” Baublies said.
Eurowings, however, has said that they already presented the union with an offer to resolve the contract disputes, including the 7 percent pay raise.
Lufthansa has put Eurowings through major transformation in recent years, merging its operations with that of the company's other low-cost subsidiary, Germanwings.
The parent airline itself has struggled with labour disputes in recent years. Just this summer, Lufthansa management finally reached an agreement with cabin crew staff after a two year-long ordeal that impacted hundreds of thousands of passengers.