Global Airport News
Air passengers in Europe picked their way through flight disruptions on Tuesday as French air traffic controllers went on strike and Lufthansa tried to get its planes back into the air after a stoppage by pilots.
In France, airlines had to cancel half of the short- and medium-haul flights at Paris's Orly airport as well as a quarter of flights at Charles de Gaulle airport, as the French workers went on strike.
French unions have called for a five-day strike to protest plans to modernise air traffic, signed by Germany, Belgium, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland. The unions fear the reforms will lead to layoffs.
German flag carrier Lufthansa's pilots in Germany went on strike on Monday, causing about 900 flights to be cancelled and leaving thousands of travellers around the world stranded.
Lufthansa has said that one day of strikes on that scale would cost it about EUR€25 million euros (USD$34 million) in lost revenues alone.
"That is just a part of life, that people are not happy about the future and try to secure their jobs," said Aldes Persolis, a passenger from Latvia who was stranded in Munich.
A few hours after the strike began, Lufthansa asked a court to halt the strike, which was meant to last until Thursday.
A judge convinced the union in a hastily convened hearing to suspend the strike until March 8 to give both sides a chance to work out their differences. If the parties fail to find a compromise by then, the pilots could go back on strike.
"We are ready for talks," said Ilona Ritter, a representative of trade union Vereinigung Cockpit.
Lufthansa workers fear that the airline, which aims to cut EUR€1 billion of costs by 2011, wants to expand the foreign units while shrinking "Lufthansa-Classic", because pilots and cabin crew make less money outside of Germany.
OPTIMISM ON TALKS
"We are cautiously optimistic that both parties will find a solution without further strike measures," said BHF Bank analyst Nils Machemehl, adding that he does not expect a resulting compromise to be a major burden for Lufthansa.
The pilots have returned to work, but Lufthansa said it expects its flight schedule to return to normal no sooner than Friday. It expects 1,400 of the usually scheduled 1,800 flights to take off on Wednesday, it said.
"Of course it takes some time until the planes are back at all 200 locations that the Lufthansa network comprises around the world, and the crews need to be positioned again, too," Lufthansa spokesman Klaus Walther said.
Cabin crew union UFO is also due to hold talks with Lufthansa soon after threatening a warning strike if the carrier failed to engage in wage negotiations.
Travellers are also waiting for news on when cabin crew at British Airways plan a work stoppage, after the union Unite voted on Monday in favour of industrial action to protest cost cuts.
British Airways wants three-quarters of its crew to accept a pay freeze this year, along with other cost-cutting measures.
It is the union's second attempt at industrial action after a court forced the workers to abandon plans for a 12-day strike over Christmas that would have affected a million passengers.