Deutsche Lufthansa AG, Europe’s second-largest airline, will cancel 3,800 flights this week, affecting 425,000 people as it braces for a three-day strike by pilots seeking better wages and retirement benefits.

The cuts, slated for April 2 to April 4, represent the vast majority of flights for those day, the German airline said in a release, calling the labor action among the most severe in its history. The disruption will cost the Frankfurt-based carrier more than 10 million euros ($14 million), it said. There will only be about 500 flights operating, Lufthansa said.

Lufthansa has made contact with the Vereinigung Cockpit pilots’ union as its seeks to negotiate a breakthrough that would avoid additional flight disruptions. The airline on March 27 canceled one in three flights for the day as German airport employees walked off work amid a union push for higher pay.

“I regret that the pilots’ union has not been able to come to agreement with us by means of negotiation,” said Bettina Volkens, the head of personnel at Lufthansa. “We made good offers both for renumeration and future agreements on early retirement from flying.”

In February 2010, the last major pilot strike, two-thirds of all flights by the airline were scrapped. In April of last year, the airline had to suspend almost its entire timetable for a full day as a strike over pay by employees in catering, freight and maintenance crippled operations.

Lufthansa said it will seek to balance the fallout from the strike with pilots and aircraft of its subsidiaries, including Air Dolomiti and Austrian Airlines, which have chosen not to participate in the action. A majority of Lufthansa’s cargo operations on the affected days will also be canceled.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrea Rothman in Toulouse at To contact the editors responsible for this story: Benedikt Kammel at 

Photo Credit: The tailplane of a Lufthansa Airbus 380 is pictured on the tarmac of Frankfurt airport. Ralph Orlowski / Reuters