Security staff on strike Cologne Bonn airport last week
Security staff on strike at Cologne Bonn airport last week © Reuters

Lufthansa has been forced to cancel hundreds of flights in and out of Germany on Tuesday as security staff at eight airports, including the country’s two busiest, stage a walkout in an escalating dispute over pay.

Germany’s largest carrier will be the most affected airline by the strike action, cancelling roughly 500 flights and warning customers to expect a “considerable amount of disruptions”. 

Detlef Kayser, Lufthansa executive board member for resources and operations standard, accused the trade union of “escalating this collective bargaining dispute disproportionately and to an unacceptable extent”.

More than 220,000 passengers will be affected, according to Germany’s airport association ADL. “Germany’s air traffic is going to be crippled on this day,” it warned in a statement. 

At the country’s busiest airport Frankfurt, which would normally expect to handle close to 140,000 passengers, airlines have cancelled 470 flights, roughly 40 per cent of the normal traffic. 

Frankfurt has advised passengers not to travel to the airport, even if their flight has not been cancelled as it will not be possible to pass security because of the strike. A spokesman said the group was not in a position to estimate the financial impact of the walkout on the airport. In Frankfurt alone, several hundred employees are expected to go on strike, according to Verdi.

At Germany’s second-busiest airport Munich, one in ten flights will be grounded. 

The other airports affected will be Hamburg, Hannover, Bremen, Leipzig/Halle, Dresden and Erfurt.

Mr Kayser hit out over the impact of previous strikes, saying Germany has “the lowest quality security checks at the highest costs, compared to Europe and other countries around the world”. 

On December 23, about 3,000 Lufthansa passengers missed their flights at Frankfurt airport because waiting times at the security gates rose to 90 minutes as the system was overwhelmed by the passenger numbers.

Tuesday’s walkout follows two strikes last week at another four German airports and has been organised by service sector union Verdi, as it seeks to secure an hourly wage of €20 for Germany’s 23,000 security-related airport employees.

Depending on the region and the specific job, this amounts to increases of between €3 and €6 an hour, according to the employers’ association BDLS.

For now, the employers are offering an annual pay rise of 2 per cent, which according to Verdi is equivalent to an increase of 40 cents an hour. The union said that such low an offer could not be the basis for a compromise. 

The next round of talks between the union and the employers’ association is scheduled for January 23 in Berlin.

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