Lufthansa subsidiary Austrian Airlines canceled 150 out of 380 flights, or 40%, on March 22 for continued union negotiations, affecting more than 12,000 passengers.

Austrian said the cancellations were made because of works council meetings, which included cockpit and cabin crew members.

Affected by the cancellation were flights between Vienna and Amsterdam, Basel, Bologna, Berlin, Belgrade, Brussels, Bucharest, Cairo, Copenhagen, Cologne, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Geneva, Graz, Hamburg, Innsbruck, Kiev, Leipzig, London, Lyon, Milan, Minsk, Moscow, Munich, Paris, Prague, Sofia, Stuttgart, Teheran, Tel Aviv, Warsaw, Venice, Zagreb and Zurich. The flights to Washington and Toronto also had to be canceled. The flight to Newark had to be canceled because of weather conditions on the US east coast. 

Austrian Airlines CEO Kay Kratky said in an statement: The short-term expansion of the combat measures clearly indicates that the union's and the works council’s target is a disruption. It is incomprehensible and absolutely unacceptable to us that higher salary demands are carried out on the backs of our customers while competition is intensifying as well.”

Austrian Airlines has 3,900 cockpit and crew members.

Trade union Vida called management’s offer of a 2.1% inflation compensation and one-time payment of 1.4% “unacceptable.”

On March 6-7, Austrian canceled 140 flights also because of collective bargaining meetings, at a cost of around €1 billion ($1.2 billion), which an airline source told ATW could rise to €3 billion on recourse claims. However, the meeting was canceled on short notice because the works council chairman fell ill.

Lufthansa Group chairman and CEO Carsten Spohr has said these types of flight cancellations may reduce the carrier’s chances of further expanding Vienna as a hub, affecting employees. “Austrian is the weakest member of the Lufthansa Group in terms of margin and earnings,” Spohr told ATW at the Lufthansa results press conference in Frankfurt. Austrian actually has to make the most money, because they need new long-haul aircraft.” Spohr said Austrian must further reduce costs in all areas, especially in negotiations with unions, airport costs and taxes.

Kurt Hofmann, hofmann.aviation@netway.at