Pilot strike to ground Lufthansa Cargo flights Sept. 8

Pilot strike to ground Lufthansa Cargo flights Sept. 8

A pilot strike on Sept. 2 will keep Lufthansa Cargo planes on the ground.

HONG KONG — Lufthansa’s long-haul and freighter flights out of Germany will be grounded by an all-day pilot strike in Tuesday, Sept. 8, as the cockpit crew union calls its 13th walkout in 18 months.

A long-running dispute over pay, retirement benefits and cost cutting at the airline has caused regular disruptions, frustrating management attempts to hold off fierce competition in Europe aviation.

German pilots' union Vereinigung Cockpit (VC) said the strike would be from 0600 GMT to 2159 GMT, announcing the walkout after talks between pilot and airline representatives collapsed last week. The last strike on March 21 caused about 74 flights most of the long-haul timetable, to be canceled.

Lufthansa Cargo operates 16 MD-11 freighters and five 777Fs, and has consistently outperformed its European rivals, which are slashing their freighter fleets in a bid to return to profit. The German carrier booked profits of $937 million in 2010-14 while its closest competitor Air France-KLM took its losses in the past four and-a-half years to $941 million following a second quarter loss of $87 million.

Helped by lower fuel costs, the parent Lufthansa group boosted adjusted earnings before interest and tax to $707 million in the second quarter from $465 million compared to the same period last year. Lufthansa Cargo in the second quarter slumped to a $74.8 million operating loss from a $22 million profit a year ago.

Vereinigung Cockpit represents 5,000 Lufthansa and Germanwings pilots and said its members were not against cost reduction measures but wanted to stop the employment of staff on non-German contracts and job losses. It also pointed out that the airline had recorded its best ever summer results.

The dispute revolves around plans by Lufthansa to scrap an arrangement under which pilots can retire at 55 and receive up to 60 percent of their pay until they reach the statutory retirement age of 65. Pilots are also concerned about Lufthansa's aim to further develop its low-cost activities as it faces growing competition.

All strike action was put on hold following the Germanwings crash in March, but talks resumed recently.

The German flag carrier operates in the most competitive continent in the world. Apart from the big legacy carriers there are scores of low-cost operators all siphoning away the passenger business, and the powerful Middle East airlines able to offer cheaper fares and extract better yields via their geographically well situated desert hubs.

Lufthansa is in the middle of a massive restructuring programme, with Germanwings handling much of the domestic and regional business. But the changes have seen the pilots union and management butting heads with regular walkouts.

Contact Greg Knowler at greg.knowler@ihs.com and follow him on Twitter: @greg_knowler.