Lufthansa pilots have begun the biggest strike in the airline’s history, grounding most of its flights for the next three days and leaving as many as 425,000 passengers without a connection.
Lufthansa cancelled about 3800 flights on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, as a result of the walkout by pilots who are demanding better pay and retirement conditions.
In addition to Lufthansa’s passenger services, the strike, which began at midnight and will last until 11.59pm on Friday, will also affect the airline’s Germanwings subsidiary and its freight carrier Lufthansa Cargo.
The walkout would cost Germany’s biggest carrier “tens of millions of euros”, it estimated.
“The economic consequences will be enormous,” Lufthansa’s head of operations Werner Knorr told a news conference.
And Knorr said there would be no talks between the two sides while the strikes were ongoing.
“I’m assuming that once the walkouts have ended, negotiations will resume,” he said.
In a bid to avert chaos, Lufthansa has been keeping passengers up to date about flight changes via text message or email, and offering to re-book them onto other airlines.
The situation at Frankfurt airport, the country’s largest, remained calm on Wednesday, with few queues evident at check-in terminals. And those flights that were operating were proceeding normally.
“The aim is that people don’t turn up at the airport for nothing,” Lufthansa spokeswoman Barbara Schaedler told AFP.
Around 60 flights were already cancelled on Tuesday so that passengers changing planes in Germany would not find themselves stranded.
Germanwings said Tuesday it planned to uphold around 600 connections over the three-day period by leasing capacity from other airlines.
Some of the disruptions would roll over into Saturday, “but our strategy is to resume our timetable as soon as possible,” Knorr said.