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Lufthansa pilot strike forces 1,800 flight cancelations

Associated Press Associated Press 23/11/2016
A passenger sits outside a terminal of the international airport as pilots of German Lufthansa airline went on a two days lasting strike for higher wages in Frankfurt, Germany, Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2016. (AP Photo/Michael Probst) © The Associated Press A passenger sits outside a terminal of the international airport as pilots of German Lufthansa airline went on a two days lasting strike for higher wages in Frankfurt, Germany, Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2016. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

BERLIN — German airline Lufthansa canceled nearly 900 flights on Wednesday and scrapped another 912 scheduled for Thursday after pilots launched a two-day strike in a pay dispute.

The Cockpit union initially called members out on a 24-hour strike Wednesday. Late Tuesday night, after Lufthansa tried and failed to have courts block the walkout, it said that they would also strike on Thursday.

The company canceled 876 of the Lufthansa group's planned 3,000 flights on Wednesday, among them 51 long-haul flights, and said that around 100,000 passengers were affected.

It later scratched 912 of roughly 3,000 scheduled flights scheduled for Thursday, including 82 long-haul flights, and said the cancellations would affect about 115,000 passengers. The airline expressed "complete incomprehension" at Cockpit's decision to extend the strike.

Still more cancellations were expected for Friday, after the union said late Wednesday that all pilots flying short-haul routes would stay off the job that day as well.

Other Lufthansa group airlines such as Eurowings, Swiss and Austrian Airlines aren't affected by the strike. Lufthansa said that Swiss and Austrian Airlines increased their capacity on flights to Germany, using bigger planes than usual.

The latest strike by Cockpit is the 14th since April 2014 in the long-running dispute. It comes as Lufthansa restructures to meet increasing competition from Gulf airlines and European budget carriers.

The union says the airline has been posting "very good numbers for years," but that its pilots haven't seen any consequent pay increases.

Lufthansa personnel chief Bettina Volkens said Cockpit's pay demands go "far beyond what other groups of employees have received."

Lufthansa said it had reserved nearly 4,000 hotel rooms in the Frankfurt and Munich areas as a precaution for Wednesday night, and put about 400 camp beds in place at Frankfurt airport for passengers who don't have visas to enter Germany.

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