Lufthansa cancels most flights after strike call by union

German airline Lufthansa today said it had cancelled most domestic, European and long-haul flights at six German airports due to strike action by ground personnel and some cabin crew.

According to a spokesman who spoke to AFP, of the nearly 1,800 planned flights for today, the carrier would operate 20 short and medium-range flights and 12 long-distance services.

At the carrier's main hub in Frankfurt, Germany's biggest and Europe's third-biggest airport, only six of the total 50 flights would go ahead, while only three from 17 would go ahead from Munich.

The strike call was given by services union Verdi after the end of three rounds of pay talks with management that did not produce any positive result.

Verdi had called for a 5.2-per cent pay increase for 33,000 Lufthansa ground staff, and additionally employees of various subsidiaries as also cabin crew members who were Verdi members.

The escalating stand off threatens to cause transport chaos across Europe's top economy and comes following Lufthansa's forced cancellation of  nearly 700 out of a total 1,800 flights due to half a day of warning strikes.

According to Lufthansa board member Stefan Lauer, the action described as a 24-hour warning strike, was "de facto an all-out strike" that was "a completely excessive measure that can in no way be justified in view of the current state of negotiations."

BBC said flights to and from London, Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle, Glasgow, Dublin, Aberdeen and Edinburgh would be hit with German airports affected being Frankfurt, Munich, Dusseldorf and Hamburg.

According to the airline, the strike, the second in two months, was uncalled for.

Reuters news agency quoted a Lufthansa spokesman as saying that it was completely out of proportion, especially in view of the fact that further dates for pay talks had already been agreed upon.

Ground staff had called a one-day strike as dispute continued with the airline.

Like many airlines, Lufthansa was looking to cut costs in the face of stiff competition from low-cost carriers as also big Gulf airlines, and increasing fuel prices.

Strikers are demanding job guarantees over job cuts.

A similar one-day strike had been staged last month by unions. Short ''warning strikes'' designed to put pressure on wage negotiations were a common tactic among German unions, BBC said.

According to a statement on its website, Lufthansa said passengers should expect "massive" flight cancellations as also delays that would start to affect long-haul flights from Sunday.