Germanwings Schedule Returning to Normal After Pilots End Strike

Aug 29, 2014 6:44 am ET

Aug. 29 (Bloomberg) -- Deutsche Lufthansa AG’s discount unit Germanwings is returning to a normal flight schedule after canceling 70 percent of flights earlier today because of a six- hour strike by pilots over cost cuts.

The airline expects some delays this afternoon as pilots begin returning from the walkout that ended at 12 p.m. local time, Vanessa Torres, an airline spokeswoman, said in a phone interview. About 15,000 passengers were impacted by the grounding of 116 flights this morning, Torres said earlier.

The walkout came days after Lufthansa said it’s trying to avert a fresh strikes by pilots at the namesake airline. The carrier canceled 3,800 flights over three days in April after pilots walked out in the worst strike in the airline’s history. Lufthansa in June cut its forecasts for this year and next as pilots resisted cost cuts and a capacity splurge hurts prices.

Lufthansa shares dropped as much as 31 cents, or 2.3 percent, to 13.05 euros and were down 1.6 percent as of 12:43 p.m. in Frankfurt trading. The stock has declined 15 percent this year, valuing the Cologned-based airline at 6.05 billion euros ($7.98 billion).

Lufthansa is transferring non-hub European traffic to Germanwings, a key part of a groupwide push to lift operating profit to 2.65 billion euros by next year. The company said in May that it’s planning to change the legal form of operations in eight German cities, which together employ 1,500 people, and move them into its Lufthansa Commercial Holding, the umbrella for about 400 subsidiaries.

Early Retirement

At the airline’s main unit, the key point of concern revolves around bridge payments to pilots who traditionally retired as early as age 55, a remnant from past accords that Lufthansa says no longer represents the current status quo.

Air France’s SNPL pilots union is also considering a strike next month. Air France-KLM Group saw a rise in second-quarter profit as it benefited from cost cuts, and announced another five-year plan to drive down expenses.

“We want a new strategy and we want to participate in the discussion,” Jean-Louis Barber, SNPL union president, said at a press conference in Paris. The Air France walkout, which would take place between Sept. 15 and Sept. 22, is in support of a single contract for Air France pilots, including those at the carrier’s low-cost Transavia and Hop! units.

--With assistance from Kari Lundgren in London.