Lufthansa and Air France Hit By Pilot Strikes

Deutsche Lufthansa AG and Air France both face disruptive strikes. Air France is facing its biggest strike by pilots since 1998, while Lufthansa is preparing for another on Tuesday as both carriers are confronting resistance from workers to sweeping changes aimed at lowering costs.

Air France, a unit of parent Air France-KLM Group, saw 60% of its pilots walk off the job Monday over the airlines plans to expand its low cost operations where flight crews receive less pay than those from the main carrier.

At Lufthansa, which suffered through a series of strikes of one and three days over benefits for retirements, pilots flying aircraft that is long haul out of Frankfurt will stop working on Tuesday.

The two strikes at the two largest airlines in Europe threaten to ruin the efforts management has to lower costs to those of discount competitors such as Ryanair Holdings, which just purchased new aircraft that will help to slash fares even more.

Air France and Lufthansa have both lost money on operations that are short-haul for many years and are moving additional business to less costly subsidiaries, a step employees are contesting, as they too are concerned about their futures.

One industry analyst said the short haul operations for both airlines are big trouble at the moment and must cut their costs rather quickly.

On Monday, Air France is expected to cancel up to 52% of its services on a strike due to run until September 22. As much as 60% could remain on the ground tomorrow.

The dispute will set Air France back $26 million per day in just revenue.

Air France has told travelers who do not absolutely need to travel to change plans.

Pilots have walked out as CEO Alexandre de Juniac of Air France-KLM seeks to end losses on short-haul flights the airline has suffered for decades.

Transavia a former Dutch charter unit will be expanded into France further with aircraft that could double in size, said the company last week. In turn, it confirmed plans that its unions said would prompt losses in jobs and cuts in pay for those at the main airline.

Pilots at Lufthansa say the strikes are to just target retirement benefits, the contested points however have increased and include higher wages as well as the plan by the airline to have low cost services on its long haul operations.

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