Flight chaos causes a heated debate on the Lufthansa board

A Lufthansa Airbus A330-300 is being loaded

The Lufthansa staff accuses the group board of having seen the pandemic as an opportunity for long-term cost reduction.

(Photo: IMAGO/UPI Photo)

Frankfurt Immediately before the special meeting of the Lufthansa supervisory board because of the current flight chaos, there was a heated debate between individual board members on Tuesday. The Handelsblatt learned this from the environment of top management. In the emotional discussion, there were mutual blame, it is said. Above all, the focus was on Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr, Chief Commercial Officer Harry Hohmeister and Chief Operations Officer Detlef Kayser. Christina Foerster, Chief Customer Officer, also had to take criticism.

In the end, however, the head of the supervisory board, Karl-Ludwig Kley, succeeded in restoring unity in the management. The group management probably did not want to afford an open front towards the employee representatives immediately before the special meeting. The Verdi union had requested the meeting. The employee representatives on the supervisory body feel that they are inadequately informed about the major current problems. They also wanted to make the high workload of the employees the subject of the meeting. Lufthansa did not comment on request.

The Lufthansa management is accused of having messed up the restart towards the end of the pandemic-related travel restrictions. Lufthansa already canceled around 3,100 flights in July and August in order to relieve the strained aviation system. Nevertheless, there are always short-term flight cancellations. In addition to the chronic shortage of staff, there are many absences due to corona infections. Companies like Lufthansa or the airport operator Fraport had cut many jobs during the crisis.

The supervisory board did not decide on personnel consequences on Wednesday, was heard from those close to the board in the late afternoon. The management admitted to mistakes and presented measures to get the chaos under control. Concessions have also been signaled in the current wage rounds.

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Before the meeting, an incendiary letter from employee representatives caused a riot. The staff representatives of Lufthansa, Lufthansa Cargo, Lufthansa City Line, Germanwings and the flight school in Bremen formulated an urgent warning in a letter to all inspectors: “We are gambling away our good reputation, and low-cost service and reliability at premium prices will certainly not be in the long run function.”

Workforce feels overwhelmed

Instead of seeing the crisis in the entire aviation industry as an opportunity to join forces to find a common way through the pandemic, the group board apparently saw it as an opportunity to lower wage and operational (cost) structures in the long term, the staff representatives criticize.

In the following lines, a devastating situation in daily flight operations is described. There is a lack of staff in many areas, colleagues are at the physical and mental stress limit. “The threats of dismissal were held on for far too long in order to achieve the desired concessions after all, and as a result moved away from it far too late.”

>> Read about this: Flight chaos: Lufthansa Supervisory Board holds extraordinary meeting

Until February 2022, the Group Executive Board suggested to the workforce that Lufthansa would have to massively resize and release staff because it was far too expensive. “Already at this point in time, there was a noticeable demand for bookings for the summer months of 2022,” the employee representatives criticize the management’s approach. The signatories cite the lack of senior flight attendants as an example of the current problems: “Because after two volunteer programs, there were not enough pursers available to cover sick leave, other flight attendants should step in.”

In the meantime, the colleagues at the airport were being led away from the gate with police protection, and one colleague had been knocked down. “Monitors are ripped out and thrown at colleagues,” it says. The few staff should now work overtime in order to master an illness rate of 20 to 30 percent. “But we see every day that this is not enough.” Against the background of the way the group board treats its staff, the workforce no longer sees itself in a position to permanently compensate for the existing shortcomings.

At the same time, the signers of the letter do not see that it will be possible to recruit enough new staff. “The working conditions in many areas are such that we lack applicants. In some companies, the remuneration starts below the minimum wage requirements that are now coming.” The supervisory board must work towards “constructive and positive personnel management”.

More: Canceled flights, a lack of staff, frustrated customers: inspectors confront the Lufthansa boss

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