Lufthansa strike expanded to include one-day walkout for long-haul fleet tomorrow

A planned strike by pilots at Lufthansa has been expanded to include a one-day walkout tomorrow at the long-haul fleet of the German airline, The Seattle Times reported.

According to The Vereinigung Cockpit (VC) union it had already announced a 35-hour strike at Lufthansa's short-haul fleet starting mid-day today, the latest in a string of walkouts over retirement benefits, which was expanded to target long-haul services from 6 am (0400 GMT) to midnight (2200 GMT) Tuesday.

The bone of contention between the sides is the pilots' demand that the airline keep paying a transition payment for those wanting to retire early, which the carrier looked to cut, in the face of tough competition from European budget airlines and major Gulf carriers.

The Lufthansa walkout started following train drivers at Germany's national railway ending a two-day walkout in an unrelated pay dispute.

The walkout affecting long-haul flights, scheduled from 12 midnight-5:59 pm EDT, would add weight to the eighth strike action taken by pilots against Lufthansa this year in a drawn-out dispute over retirement benefits, Reuters reported.

Lufthansa yesterday canceled 1,450 flights after the pilots union called for a strike today and tomorrow, adding to travelers' misery in Germany after a weekend-long train drivers' stoppage left millions stranded due to a weekend-long train drivers' stoppage.

The strikes by both pilots and train drivers hit at the start of half-term holidays in nearly half of the 16 federal states of the country.

The strike at Lufthansa had been initially set for 7:00 am EDT today until 5:59 pm EDT tomorrow.

According to projections by DZ Bank analyst Dirk Schlamp, the series of eight strikes would cut Lufthansa's earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) by €80-90 million this year.

He added, a solution, however, was not yet apparent, and further strikes therefore were possible.

The strikes come with the national airline trying to expand low-cost operations that would allow it to compete more effectively with budget carriers including Ryanair and easyJet  on short-haul European routes.

VC, representing about 5,400 Lufthansa pilots, was fighting to keep a scheme that allowed pilots to retire at the age of 55 and still receive up to 60 per cent of their pay before regular pension payments started at 65.

The union had proposed a plan that would cover the costs of the scheme.