Lufthansa: Week-long strike grounds nearly half a million fliers

Another day, another strike-related mess for Lufthansa’s customers.

The carrier grounded about a third of its entire flight schedule on Thursday as striking flight attendants walked off the job for the sixth time in seven days.

The labor disruption forced the German carrier to cancel more than 930 flights, including most of its Thursday schedule to the United States. Lufthansa estimates that Thursday’s disruption has stranded 107,000 of its customers. The carrier has already pared its Friday schedule as well, preemptively canceling more than 940 flights that will impact about 111,000 fliers.

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The overall toll of the attendants strike has been staggering since it first began last Friday (Nov. 6). Combined, Lufthansa has canceled about 3,700 flights affecting more than 440,000 passengers – nearly half a million travelers.

Among the key disputes are retirement benefits. In particular, attendants are reportedly unhappy on Lufthansa’s plans regarding “transition” payments for members who retire early. Such transition payments help guarantee wages and benefits until government plans began at standard retirement ages.

Strikes have become a recurring problem for Lufthansa, which has been working to cut costs this decade. The carrier is facing increased competition in Europe low-cost rivals and in international markets from the rapid global expansion of Persian Gulf rivals Emirates,Etihad and Qatar Airways.

The strikes have come with a price tag. Bloomberg News estimates “Lufthansa’s losses from a series of crippling strikes over the past 10 months are set to surpass 230 million euros ($247 million), eclipsing expenses from a spate of walkouts last year.”

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