Lufthansa ‘optimistic’ pilots’ strike can be averted

Lufthansa downplayed the threat of strike action by pilots this summer as it reported a profit of €259 million for the three months to June.

Carsten Spohr, Lufthansa Group chief executive, said he was “optimistic” a settlement would be reached with pilots following their overwhelming vote to strike over pay in a union ballot.

The pilot’s strike vote followed a separate one-day ‘warning’ strike by Lufthansa ground staff, also over pay, which grounded much of the German carrier’s operations on July 27.

However, Spohr revealed the Verdi union negotiator representing ground staff “said last night we are close to each other” on an agreement, and he added: “We have set dates to negotiate with the pilots’ union. I’m optimistic about it.”

The pilots’ union has yet to announce any strike dates.

Lufthansa achieved a profit for the quarter despite the group incurring €158 million in ‘irregularity costs’ due to flight disruption in the three months to June.

The group reported a loss of €325 million for the first half of the year.

Spohr reported: “The processes involved in handling flights were and remain under severe pressure, both at the airlines and at airport ground services, security and immigration controls, and air traffic control.”

He insisted: “A stable flight schedule is currently our top priority.

“We removed a large number of flights from the schedule to stabilise the system, primarily at our hub at Frankfurt.”

But Spohr warned: “We expect the situation to remain demanding in the weeks ahead.

“We are reaching the limits of our staff capacities due to the extra work required to deal with flight irregularities and a high sickness rate.”

Group carriers Lufthansa, Swiss, Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines and Eurowings operated 75% of their 2019 capacity over the second quarter of the year and should operate 80% over the summer quarter to the end of September – down from the 85% previously scheduled.

However, Lufthansa risks further disruption through its determination to enforce differential pay scales on pilots at different airlines in the group appears a sticking point in negotiations to avert a strike, with the pilots demanding a single pay agreement and salary scale in Germany.

Group chief financial officer Remco Steenbergen said: “One pay scale for all our airlines in Germany is a strategic no go for us. It would put us at a competitive disadvantage.”

But he added: “There is a lot we can do.”

Steenbergen declined to give details saying: “It would not be helpful because of the state of discussions with the unions.”

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