Airline Strikes Impact Hundreds of Thousands of Passengers in Europe
Europe faced significant air travel disruption Tuesday as protests that began with French SNCF rail workers transitioned to Lufthansa and Air France, the biggest airlines in Europe.
On April 3rd, French SNCF orchestrated a national protest where they will strike for two out of every five days for the next three months, causing delays throughout France and its neighboring countries.
Public workers from German airline trade union Verdi have joined the rail protests, which refute President Macron’s proposed labor reforms, and orchestrated a walk-out at 5:00 a.m. Central European Time to 6:00 a.m. at Frankfurt, Munich, Cologne, and Bremen airports in an effort to “increase pressure” on wage talks.
Hundreds of thousands of flights and passengers have been affected by the strike action as Lufthansa has been forced to cancel 800 of its 1,600 schedule flights. Additionally, Air France has cancelled one in four of its flights as airline staff demand that their 2.3 million union members receive a pay raise of at least 6 percent to make up for the disparity between public-sector and private sector pay, which has steamed ahead over the last couple decades.
While the airlines’ own staff is not participating in the protests, the public workers who manage ground handling, support services, and the airport fire brigades have substantively halted almost all airport flights, with 35 percent of Air France’s long-haul flights from Paris Charles de Gaulle cancelled.
Bettina Volkens, Lufthansa’s head of human resources, commented on their strike, stating: “It is completely unacceptable for the union to impose this conflict on uninvolved passengers…Lufthansa is not part of this collective bargaining conflict, but unfortunately, our customers and our company are being affected by the consequences of this dispute. Politicians and legislators must define clear rules for strikes and industrial actions.”
Meanwhile, Air France’s strike has caused the airline to face costs of 170 million euros, and are expected to suffer more losses as strikes continue on Wednesday, and further walkouts planned on four more days this month.
“Even after two rounds of negotiations, employers have made no offer to increase wages,” Verdi said in a statement, “That is why we are conducting warning strikes.”
The next round of negotiations will begin this weekend, but if they prove to be unsuccessful, the union has threatened that the strikes will cascade to a more widespread disruption.