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Aviation

Germanwings pilots strike strands domestic passengers

Passengers booked on Germanwings could find themselves all packed up with nowhere to go. Holidaymakers face a chaotic end to their vacations as pilots of Lufthansa's budget subsidiary stage a Friday morning strike.

Passengers with flights on Germanwings could find themselves waiting until noon (1000 UTC) or seeking alternate transportation amid a row at parent airline Lufthansa over a retirement scheme for pilots. Germanwings has canceled 116 flights, mainly on domestic routes, affecting 15,000 passengers.

"The strike will have a considerable impact on flight operations to and from Germany and on domestic German connections," the airline announced ahead of the action.

Düsseldorf, Hamburg, Berlin, and especially Cologne-Bonn and Stuttgart will all see flights canceled; however, Germany's biggest airport, in Frankfurt, will not face any direct effects of the strike. Just last month, Lufthansa had shifted many of its national and European routes to Germanwings, hoping the budget service could increase profits for the flagship carrier. The airline had made a similar move back in 2011.

Lufthansa, Germanwings and Lufthansa Cargo have long battled their 5,400 pilots over early retirement packages. Airline officials want to raise the early retirement age to 61. Currently, pilots step down at 59 years old on average. Lufthansa pays a subsidy until state benefits kick in at 65.

'Not realistic'

Cockpit has announced that its lawyers would prepare for a lengthy battle but that Lufthansa could avoid further strikes by meeting the pilots' demands. Airline officials said they had wanted to use a meeting on Thursday to agree to a timetable for further negotiations, rather than to reach a final deal.

Pilot strike

Up to 425,000 Lufthansa passengers were grounded during April's three-day strike.

"It is not realistic to expect to reach a deal on a new model for pension provisions in one day," Bettina Volkens, Lufthansa's head of personnel, said in a statement released Thursday.

Travelers in Germany also face a walkout at rail operator Deutsche Bahn. Cockpit and the train drivers' union announced that they would avoid a total shutdown of domestic transportation routes.

A three-day strike by Lufthansa pilots in April cost the airline 60 million euros ($80 million).

mkg/crh (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)

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