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Lufthansa pilot union’s strike affects some 750 flights

March 18, 2015

BERLIN (AP) — Hundreds of flights were canceled Wednesday in a strike by Lufthansa pilots at the German airline’s short- and medium-haul operations — the latest in a string of walkouts over pay.

Around 80,000 passengers are affected by the strike Wednesday that grounded some 750 flights, most of them domestic or within Europe. Germany’s major airports reported no major chaos, however, as word of the strike was spread by SMS and e-mail to passengers by the airline well in advance.

The Vereinigung Cockpit union announced that it would extend its strikes to long-distance flights on Thursday, which was expected to have the knock-on effect of dramatically decreasing the number of passengers on feeder flights as well.

The union has hit various Lufthansa units with around a dozen short-term walkouts over recent months. The dispute centers on the airline’s plans to cut transition payments for pilots wanting to retire early, which the union wants to see maintained.

The union wants to cut those payments, citing increasingly tough competition.

Traditional national carriers like Germany’s biggest airline are being squeezed both by European budget carriers such as Ryanair and EasyJet as well as major Gulf airlines like Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways.

The German government is alongside France pressing the European Union to demand fair competition with the Gulf airlines, which are accused of receiving billions in states subsidies from their home states.

Lufthansa, which already has lower-cost offshoots in Germanwings and Eurowings, has announced plans to launch budget long-haul services at the end of the year in collaboration with SunExpress, a joint venture with Turkish Airlines.

Update hourly