Another strike by the VC pilots union, has grounded Lufthansa flights out of its south German hub, Munich, today from 10 am to 6 pm.
The airline has offered affected passengers, holding tickets for flights within Germany, the option of taking the train instead.
Thomas Klühr, member of the Lufthansa German Airlines Board, Finances & Hub Munich, said last night: “This strike will cause severe inconveniences for our passengers, especially during the final holiday week in Bavaria amid the traditional traffic peak as many travelers return home. We deeply regret that our passengers again have to bear the brunt of uncompromising measures undertaken by the VC union. Tomorrow we will do everything in Munich to ease the impact on our passengers. I explicitly want to thank those pilots who will be flying tomorrow despite the walkout and thereby enabling long-haul flights from Munich to continue.”
While the airline was able to protect its long-haul service, the cancellations affected 110 flights to and from Munich on German domestic and European routes. The airline estimates that 13,500 passengers have been cancelled because of this new walkout.
Passengers flying to destinations within Germany were given the option to re-book or cancel their flight without charge, or to exchange their tickets for rail tickets on the airline’s website or at the Quick Check-In machines.
Rail service and air service compete heavily with each other for regional transport in Europe, with fares and services sometimes tipping in favor of trains. A one way economy ticket from Munich to Hamburg, for example, would cost 186 Euros at the lowest available fare in Economy this month, whereas the same trip non-stop on the high speed train costs 142 Euros.
While the flight takes just over an hour, the train ride takes five and a half hours. The view, the room available on the train, the convenience of traveling through a train terminal and services like free Wi-Fi connectivity make some train connections tempting for those taking short trips, but it’s questionable whether passengers having their airline ticket replaced by a rail ticket are getting an equitable substitution.
Under EU regulations, passengers who suffer a last-minute flight cancellation are entitled to identical compensation to that offered when denied boarding, unless the passenger was informed 14 days before the flight or rerouted close to the original schedule. Passengers have a choice of requesting a reimbursement of their tickets, or re-routing to the final destination under similar conditions. The airline must also make phone calls, refreshments, food and accommodation arrangements for passengers—including transport to the accommodation.
Lufthansa has also announced that it booked several hundred hotel rooms in Munich and nearby, for passengers stuck at the airport, and providing special accommodation in the transit area of FMG Airport, Munich, for passengers who have no entry-visa for Germany. It will provide refreshments, snacks and calls in keeping with the requirements.
The ongoing labor disputes have been a strain on the airline which already faces tight competition in its market from the low-cost carriers.