Central Area at the Munich Airport
Central Area at the Munich Airport

MUNICH—Pilots at German airline Deutsche Lufthansa AG said they would stage an eight-hour strike at Munich Airport on Wednesday, their third protest in weeks, in a continuing dispute over retirement benefits.

English: Lufthansa aircraft and one Air Canada...
English: Lufthansa aircraft and one Air Canada aircraft at Munich Airport. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The pilots union Vereinigung Cockpit said the strike would operate between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. local time, stranding flights departing from one of the airline’s main hubs. Lufthansa said about 110 flights will have to be canceled due to the strike, affecting about 13,500 passengers.

The company also said the strikes at the Munich airport wouldn’t have much impact on flights departing from the airline’s big hub in Frankfurt, and some passengers will be rebooked on Lufthansa flights from other hubs like Frankfurt, Zurich, Vienna and Brussels. Long-haul flights from Munich won’t be affected either, Lufthansa said.

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“We regret that our customers have to suffer once again because of the uncompromising approach of the union,” Member of Passenger Airline Board Thomas Klühr said.

The fresh round of strikes would be the sixth employee protest to hit Lufthansa this year and comes just days after a pilot protest grounded more than 200 short- and medium-haul flights from Frankfurt Airport. Pilots at the Lufthansa subsidiary Germanwings also walked out on the job for six hours in late August.

“We feel forced to take these additional measures since the Lufthansa management still hasn’t presented a compromise,” said the pilots union, which represents about 90% of all Lufthansa group pilots.

The two parties have been locked in a row for more than two years over pay and retirement benefits. The current dispute focuses on shifts in pilots’ retirement benefits stemming from changes to retirement ages. At present, pilots can retire and continue to receive 60% of their wages as of age 55. Lufthansa has said the early-retirement benefits plan is antiquated, given recent changes to European Union law, which now allows pilots to fly until age 65.

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The airline pared its guidance on operating profit in June, largely because of this year’s protests by pilots, ground and security personnel. A three-day pilot strike in April grounded 3,800 flights and trimmed at least 60 million euros ($77.6 million) off the airline’s operating profit. Lufthansa expects to report just €1 billion in operating profit this year, down from its previous forecast of between €1.3 billion and €1.5 billion.

Munich Airport - munichFOTO
Munich Airport – munichFOTO

Analysts at KeplerCheuvreux said on Tuesday they expect the airline will even fall short of the new target, partly because of the continuing employee disputes. The brokerage forecasts Lufthansa will post an operating profit of about €896 million this year.

DZ Bank analyst Dirk Schlamp said he expects a “further negative earnings impact” from the latest industrial action, adding that Wednesday’s strikes alone could cost the airline up to €5 million.

Other analysts had previously welcomed the airline’s strong stance in the fight, saying the strikes could hurt results, but a weak compromise would harm the company even more in the long run.

This article first appeared in the WSJ
By N. Droziak and N. Mahadavan