Deutsche Lufthansa AG staff staged a one-day walkout on Wednesday that caused most flights out of Frankfurt and Munich to be canceled. The strikes also grounded some international flights.
The German trade union ver.di organized the strike to improve wages for ground staff and aircraft technicians impacted by rising inflation and ongoing aviation staff shortages. The union demanded a 9.5% wage increase for 20,000 workers.
In June, ver.di chairwoman Christine Behle explained that the German airline was at risk of losing staff, stating that "after three years of wage sacrifice, employees have been hit particularly hard by the high inflation rate."
Trade union warns of future strikes
Negotiations between ver.di and Lufthansa began at the end of June, and since then, the airline said it agreed to a 5.9%-14.8% increase for workers.
After meeting for two rounds of negotiations, Lufthansa's head of media relations, Martin Leutke, stated that the strike was "completely unnecessary" and "completely exaggerated."
A spokesperson for the trade union explained, "Lufthansa did not make an adequate offer in the first two rounds" and that employees need to demand more in the third round of negotiations.
Navigating a tight labor market
Airlines have struggled to keep up with the demanding post-lockdown summer travel season and industry-wide worker shortages. Lufthansa stated that it would attempt to rebook flights for passengers, but resources are limited.
Because Lufthansa is short on airport staff, the company recommends that those impacted by the cancellations call to rebook.
Chief officer of human resources and infrastructure at Lufthansa, Dr. Michael Niggemann, stated, "It affects our passengers in particular, who are impacted during the peak travel season. And it is putting an additional heavy strain on our employees in an already difficult phase for air traffic."
The airline anticipates another 646 flights will be canceled Wednesday out of Frankfurt and 330 out of Munich. Cancellations are expected to continue through Friday.
Lufthansa is the latest airline affected by a wave of staff strikes. Just last week, Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) came to an agreement with the pilot unions, ending a 15-day walkout that impacted over 350,000 passengers.
Worldwide flight cancellations have become an ongoing issue for those looking to travel. Airlines blame a combination of factors, including the surge in post-lockdown travel, staff shortages, and inclement weather.
Rep. Chip Roy and Sen. Lindsey Graham hoped to alleviate the staff shortage crisis by introducing a bill that would increase the mandatory retirement age of pilots from 65 to 67. The Monday press release warned that "nearly 14,000 qualified U.S. pilots will be forced to retire over the next five years."
U.S. senators are calling for Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and the Department of Transportation to take action and protect passengers.
Sen. Bernie Sanders stated in a June press release that prices for tickets rose 38% while airlines experienced a 50% increase in delays and an 18% increase in cancellations.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Alex Padilla wrote to the DOT that they have "the authority to take meaningful actions to hold airlines accountable for avoidable delays and cancellations."
The two senators accused the airlines of being ungrateful for the billions in taxpayer bailout assistance provided to them during COVID lockdowns. They stated that "major airlines have reciprocated by dramatically increasing ticket prices and reaching new lows in their treatment of travelers."
Until a solution is found, passengers will continue to pay the consequences of significant worldwide flight delays and cancellations.