Explained: Why are hundreds of Lufthansa flights getting cancelled?

Lufthansa airplanes are seen parked on the tarmac during a strike of cabin crew union (UFO) at Frankfurt airport, Germany November 7, 2019. (Reuters Photo: Ralph Orlowski)

Lufthansa's cabin crew union has gone on strike, leading to about 700 flights being cancelled on Thursday, with another 600 expected to be cancelled on Friday. Travel plans of around 1,80,000 passengers have been disrupted owing to the strike, and Lufthansa is expected to take a massive financial hit.

The cancelled flights are mainly to Germany, Europe and the United States. The strike has not affected Lufthansa's other airlines, such as Eurowings, Brussels Airlines and Austrian Airlines.

The German airline had tried to block the strike by taking its employee union to court, but on Wednesday, a Frankfurt labour court held the strike was legal.

Lufthansa strike: Why are employees protesting, and till when can disruptions last?

The staff members on strike belong to an employee union called the Unabhängige Flugbegleiter Organisation (UFO). UFO and the airline have been locked in a tussle for years over demands for better pay and pensions, more benefits, and an easier path for temporary workers to get long-term contracts.

The union alleges Lufthansa has refused to negotiate with it.

The airline, on its part, does not recognise the union, and maintains it does not have the authority to represent its cabin crew as its members were not elected in a proper manner. The UFO disputes this.

UFO, too, has been battling infighting and corruption charges. It is set to elect new leaders in February 2020. The Union claims the airline has used its problems to justify not negotiating over its demands.

Passengers queue in a terminal at the airport in Frankfurt, Germany, Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019. (AP Photo: Michael Probst)

What's the airline doing?

"UFO has called on its cabin crew members for a two-day strike on 7 and 8 November. Lufthansa condemns the strike call in the strongest possible terms," the airline tweeted Thursday.

It has offered to convert cancelled flight tickets to train tickets for passengers within Germany. Lufthansa will also reimburse "any care costs incurred directly as a result of the strike, e.g. for hotel accommodation, meals during the waiting period or alternative means of transport to the original destination, following a plausibility check," the airline said.

"Lufthansa asks passengers affected by the strike to make use of the self-service facilities for own rebooking, refund of their tickets and issuing rail vouchers," it posted on Twitter.

However, no compensation will be paid to affected passengers, Lufthansa said.

An information flight pannel is seen during a strike of Lufthansa airline's cabin crew union (UFO) at Frankfurt airport, Germany November 7, 2019. (Reuters Photo: Ralph Orlowski)

"If your flight has been cancelled, you can return your ticket and have your money refunded. However, since a strike is force majeure according to the case law of the Federal Court of Justice, compensation will not be paid under the EU Passenger Rights Regulation," it said on its website.

The airline and the union have agreed to a fresh round of talks over the weekend. For now, the UFO has said the strike is till midnight Friday, but has not ruled out extending it if weekend negotiations fail.

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