Lufthansa’s Controversial Flight Attendant Strike, Part Two

Filed Under: Lufthansa, Unions

Update: Here’s the latest on Lufthansa’s flight attendant strike.

British Airways has been in the news most lately for their industrial action, though a labor dispute is greatly intensifying at Lufthansa as well, with a second strike imminent… sort of.

Lufthansa’s Flight Attendants To Go On Strike

UFO, the union representing Lufthansa flight attendants, has called for a two day strike this week. The 48 hour strike is expected to start at 23:00 GMT on November 6, through 23:00 GMT on November 8. The union has stated that all flights could be impacted as a result.

This is the second strike they are calling in just over two weeks. A similar strike was called for Sunday, October 20, 2019, though it was only scheduled for five hours.

Lufthansa hasn’t yet published any schedule changes as a result of this new strike, and apparently they’re even sort of ignoring this planned strike, as I’ll talk about more below. This situation is more complicated than meets the eye.

If the strike does in fact happen, passengers on canceled flights would be entitled to EU261 compensation. Advance flight cancelations entitle passengers to compensation, unless the flight is canceled at least 14 days in advance.

In this case flights are being canceled within a week, and an airline strike isn’t considered an “extraordinary” circumstance. Passengers could be looking at 250-600EUR of compensation.

Why Lufthansa Isn’t Recognizing The Strike

On the most basic level, UFO is demanding a 1.8% pay increase over a half year period. But the situation is actually much more complicated than that.

Lufthansa’s flight attendant agreement lapsed in June, but the two sides haven’t really been negotiating since.

The major issue here is that Lufthansa doesn’t recognize UFO’s right to bargain. Management argues that UFO doesn’t represent flight attendants and doesn’t have the right to strike, but court cases recently have suggested otherwise.

The controversy with UFO comes from the fact that there were reports of corruption at the union, and there was quite a bit of internal fighting. The union argues that Lufthansa has been using UFO’s internal issues to their advantage by trying not to recognize the union.

This strike doesn’t seem to be about the 1.8% pay raise as such, but rather about getting to the point where Lufthansa is once again recognizing UFO as the union that can bargain on behalf of flight attendants.

Apparently Lufthansa isn’t even planning on setting up contingency plans here, both because they don’t recognize the union, and because they think they can get enough people to work.

Here’s a video from UFO deputy chief Daniel Flohr regarding the first strike:

Bottom Line

Lufthansa’s flight attendant union is calling a strike for the second time in a couple of weeks. This time around the strike is for two days rather than just five hours.

However, this isn’t a “traditional” strike, in the sense that Lufthansa doesn’t even recognize the power of the union to bargain.

We’ll see if either side budges, or how this plays out…

  1. Wrong information. No EU261 compensation applies as strikes are viewed as extraordinary circumstance. Lufthansa has to take of meals and lodging though.

  2. LOL.

    Speaking of LH, I had to call UA yesterday because I took a LH flight from ICN to MUC, which should have earned me 150% PQM as a UA ‘Y/B’ fare ticket, but because I’d successfully upgraded it to biz on the LH flight using a GPU, it got changed to a LH ‘M’ fare, which earns just 100% PQM. So, rather than earning 7,962 PQMs, LH awarded me just 5,308 PQMs or 2,654 fewer, threatening what is perhaps my last requalification as a 1K. Fortunately, UA had the original booking info showing the correct QPMs that I was supposed to earn for the segment, so they told me not to worry; they’ll get LH to credit me the correct number of PQMs.

    A bit off topic but an interesting LH-related tidbit…

  3. Of course my return flight to Madrid from Munich is on Sunday morning. Luckily Iberia still had cheap-ish one way flights available as of this mornin’s announcement.

  4. Hope this doesn’t affect Saturday flights… booked MAD-MUC just a few hours ago on the evening flight, hope it sticks!

  5. From what I can see…EC261 compensation is due if the strike is due to the airline staff…and not some third party. So in this case, compensation applies. If that was not the case, why was BA so careful to announce all its pilot strike flight cancellations just before T-14 days?

  6. I wonder how many of the LH crew are actually members of the union. If LH thinks they can continue to operate even if the strike takes place, that suggests that it’s a relatively low percentage of workers who participate.
    This may also explain why LH is hesitant to allow the union to negotiate on behalf of *all* the crew if they only represent a small portion of them.

  7. And my luggage vanished on a Lufthansa flight originating in Houston to Naples,Italy. It’s been 30 days to date and still no information from the airline regarding my bag. A bit off topic but another LH incident

  8. Can someone PLEASE settle the EU261 issue once and for all. Any time Lucky posts about a strike like this he mentions that EU 261 applies because strikes are not considered extraordinary events, then in the comments section some people contradict him and others back him up, and in the end it’s impossible to tell what really is the case, which is super frustrating. I just want accurate information.

  9. @RCB, I believe that if it is the AIRLINE employees going on strike then passengers are entitled to compensation because it is the airline’s fault they are going on strike. However if it air traffic controllers or airport employees going on strike then passengers are not entitled to compensation because it is not the airline’s fault. However duty of care applies in all circumstances.

  10. @RCB In Germany and Austria courts ruled there is no compensation due as a result of strike action , even within the company by their own staff … if you live in those countries you get nothing

  11. EU261 applies, because this is strike consists of airline employees. If the flights were cancelled because German air traffic controllers or contract luggage handlers were striking, the EU261 would not apply. It’s pretty simple stuff.

  12. My guess, is that by claiming that UFO is not recognized, they are gambling that they will be able to claim, this strike is not normal/inherent in the normal exercise of the activity of the airline, thus skirt EU261. Like claiming how they didn’t take a group seriously because it was not a real/official organization.

  13. Unfortunately there is no definitive yes or no answer to the EU261 question.

    Although this is an EU wide regulation, like many EU regulations actual implementation and interpretation can vary between countries. Some issues have reached the European court for definitive definitions but others areas are still vague and vary depending on jurisdiction.

    Some national courts have ruled that strike action is covered, where the strike action is under the control of the airline (not for example ATC or Fire Services), others have ruled the other way. Even where courts have ruled in favour of including strike action there are still grey areas, for instance if the strikers are not direct employees of the airline, but are still striking against conditions set by the airline (Ryanair pilots, Ground Service Agents etc).

    So it may come down to what jurisdiction your contract with Lufthansa comes under as to whether EU261 is paid.

    What does surprise me is Lufthansa, of all companies, playing the non-recognition game. I was under the impression that German rules on union recognition and participation of union/employee representatives was amongst the strongest in Europe.

  14. @james. As I mentioned German courts deemed strikes as extraordinary therefore there is no compensation if you live in Germany ( or Austria) Its not so clear cut

  15. Just to make things even more complicated – It seems there was a case in July of this year that reached the European Court ( C-195/17 Krüsemann and Others), in which the CJEU (Court of Justice of the European Union) overrode the judgement of a german court excluding strike action, and stated that in that particular case it was not an extraordinary circumstance and that EU261 did apply.

    However that case was a “wildcat” strike, effectively a “sick-out” and the ruling was specific to that circumstance.

    But the ruling defined a “wildcat” strike as an action not organised by the workforce representatives which then raises the amusing question in my mind that if Lufthansa is refusing to recognise the union does this then make the strike, by Lufthansa’s own definition, a wildcat action and therefore covered by the CJEU ruling.

  16. A ruling by the European Court of Justice overrules the rulings of a national court and then applies to all EU nations. But it does need either the plaintiff or defendant to appeal a national court ruling to the ECJ

    Unless and until that happens it is perfectly possible for something to be ruled extraordnary under EU261/2004 in one EU nation and not extraordinary in another.

    To use a USA analogy it’s the same as SCOTUS deaing with a circuit split where until it does a law can be constitutional in some circuits of the US but unconstitutional in others

  17. I just do not understand the popularity and hype of Lufthansa. Ok the First Class cabin does look nice with prices to match, but business and premium economy look a very dated hard product to me.

    I only really fly them short haul economy where they are reliable but not long haul because the premium cabins are usually among the tow or three most expensive of all airlines.

    Is it the service that appeals to people so much with Lufthansa?

    I would like to know why people like them so much more than the other big carriers that seem to get far more flack such as Air France and British Airways…

  18. There are quite a number of incorrect statements in Lucky’s article.

    The strike on 20 October was scheduled for 5 hours only, BUT it was extended to 11 hours while it was running already. Furthermore, this strike was originally targeted at Lufthansa (the mother) but was then redirected to the daughters (such as EUROWINGS).

    Lufthansa in NOT ignoring this strike. On their website they have a clear reference to the strike and state “We are currently working at full speed on a special flight plan for Thursday and Friday which will be published on Wednesday”.

    And, yes, the situation is way too complicated for you, Lucky, to put something useful into that post. Report about the planned strike and leave it at that. Or do your homework.

  19. @ Sung: believe me, EU261 is the least of the concerns of Lufthansa when it comes to UFO. The whole “Union” is a mess.

  20. @James: it should not affect flights from the US on November 09 as Lufthansa usually does not do night-stops.

    If, however, aircraft that are supposed to fly to the US on November 09 are not where they are supposed to be (i.e. Frankfurt in your case) they may very well have to cancel those flights.

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