Lufthansa Averts Pilot Strikes, Reaches Basic Union Deal

Credit: Panther Media GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo

FRANKFURT—Lufthansa managed to avoid a second pilot strike within five days and settled on an agreement in principle with union Vereinigung Cockpit (VC) Sept. 6.

Details of the deal remained unknown initially. VC stated that it was happy about the agreement on pay and structural issues. The union stated that the details have to be worked out over the coming days. Lufthansa stated it was pleased another strike could be avoided but did not provide further details. VC scheduled a briefing for Sept. 7.

The union had called its members for a strike on Sept. 2, forcing Lufthansa to cancel essentially all 800 daily flights in Frankfurt and Munich. After a few days with no further movements, VC announced a second round of strikes—two days for Lufthansa’s passenger airline and three days for Lufthansa Cargo, starting Sept. 7—prompting management to come up with a last minute offer the same morning. After six hours of negotiations, a breakthrough was confirmed by both sides.

VC had demanded pay hikes and changes in work rules, leading to a 40% cockpit cost increase over two years, according to Lufthansa calculations. The airline had offered 18% higher pay for the lower pay grades and around 5% for senior captains. In addition, the union was highly critical of the airline’s termination of a minimum fleet guarantee—which Lufthansa had in the meantime offered to reinstate—and the planned introduction of a new subsidiary for feeder services into Frankfurt and Munich.

The new carrier, dubbed CityLine II internally, was planned to be launched for the summer of 2023, but is now understood to be shelved again as part of the broader agreement. The minimum fleet guarantee was for 325 aircraft (including around 30 of the now defunct Germanwings operation). It is believed that a similar fleet size could be the subject of a new agreement, albeit in a phased approach over several years.

Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr told journalists Sept. 5 that “we are working towards a more trustful relationship” with unions. Given high inflation, “significant pay increases are absolutely justified.”

The airline plans to hire around 20,000 new staff over the next 18 months to manage the anticipated growth. It plans to operate 87-90% of its pre-crisis capacity in summer 2023 and will take delivery of 50 new aircraft within the next year. Lufthansa received its first of 32 Boeing 787-9s last week and plans to take its second in October. Spohr is meeting with Boeing management in Seattle later this week to discuss further timelines, including for the remaining 787-9s and for the 777-9 order (20 aircraft).

Lufthansa also plans to invest in cabin upgrades, including a new long-haul business class that will arrive next year on a second batch of 787s and Airbus A350s. The carrier will retrofit around 31,000 seats.

The company is forecasting a return to profitability this year as demand recovered faster than expected. July and August were “outstanding,” Spohr said. Operational stability has also returned after the airline cut about 12% of its initial summer capacity, though delays persist at a higher-than-normal level.

Jens Flottau

Based in Frankfurt, Germany, Jens is executive editor and leads Aviation Week Network’s global team of journalists covering commercial aviation.