By Shane McGinley
Lufthansa and airberlin have canceled flights, while Etihad Airways has warned of delays
Gulf passengers travelling to Germany face delays and flight cancellations as a result of strikes by baggage handlers and security staff at the country’s main airports.
Around a third of flights were cancelled at Frankfurt airport, Germany's biggest and the third busiest airport in Europe, operators Fraport said on Tuesday. Airports in Berlin, Munich, Cologne, Dortmund, Dusseldorf and Stuttgart are also affected by the walkouts led by the Ver.di labour union over a pay dispute.
Deutsche Lufthansa and Air Berlin, the country’s two largest carriers have been forced to cancel more than 460 flights worldwide, including some of their Middle East scheduled routes.
Lufthansa is canceling flights from cities including Copenhagen, Istanbul, London, Madrid, Rome and Stockholm to German destinations, as well as outbound flights to cities such as Abu Dhabi, Detroit, Kuwait, Mumbai, New Delhi and Orlando.
More than 80 percent of the 435 flights canceled by Lufthansa are at the company’s primary hub in Frankfurt. Low cost carrier Air Berlin, which Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways bought a 29.2 percent stake in last year, cancelled 29 flights as a result of the strikes.
Etihad Airways, which operates flights to Frankfurt and Dusseldorf, said “flights will be operating as scheduled but Etihad guests may experience some delays while waiting for flights to be offloaded”.
“Our partner airberlin might also face some disruptions to their schedule. Guests are advised to contact airberlin for an update on their flights," the spokesperson added.
Doha-based Qatar Airways, which flies to Frankfurt, Berlin, Munich and Stuttgart was forced to cancel one of its twice-daily Frankfurt flights this morning, due to the strike action. However, the second daily Frankfurt flight continued as normal, but was upgraded to a bigger aircraft to accommodate passengers affected by the disruption.
Ver.di is demanding a 6.5 percent pay raise for government employees. The union said on March 13 that it will call more strikes after pay talks were successful. Negotiations are scheduled to resume on March 28 and March 29.
Lufthansa, the dominant carrier in Frankfurt, Europe’s third-busiest airport, said late last month that the ground-controllers’ walkouts in February led to costs “significantly” exceeding €10m ($13.3m).
Dubai’s Emirates, the region’s largest carrier, said its scheduled flights to Hamburg, Dusseldorf, Munich and Frankfurt were operating as normal.