Lufthansa checks new airline: No agreement with pilots

Lufthansa under construction

The airline is negotiating with the pilots about the future line-up.

(Photo: Reuters)

Frankfurt Lufthansa is serious about the threat of splitting up the short and long-haul traffic of the core Lufthansa brand and founding a new airline. For this purpose, the group is examining its own flight operations under German law, as can be seen from a letter that became known on Tuesday. This new airline could handle feeder flights for the Munich and Frankfurt hubs and provide jobs for the previously unemployed pilots of the discontinued subsidiary Germanwings.

This escalates a dispute that has been simmering for a long time between Lufthansa management and the pilot association Vereinigung Cockpit (VC). The focus is on two topics: On the one hand, a new task is to be found for the Germanwings pilots. Lufthansa closed the former low-cost subsidiary immediately after the crisis began.

Some captains and first officers switched to the Lufthansa subsidiary Eurowings. But for around 300 Germanwings pilots there is still no solution. You are threatened with termination from March 31st. The management has always rejected a social plan with reference to a lack of money.

This problem is closely related to the second topic: a fundamentally new tariff structure for the approximately 5,000 pilots of the core brands Lufthansa and Lufthansa Cargo. According to the management, this is a prerequisite for reintegrating the Germanwings pilots into the flight operations of the core Lufthansa brand. It calls for up to 30 percent cost savings.

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The VC has so far rejected this. A last attempt to find an agreement has failed. A four-day closed meeting between the two sides ended last week without a result. Here, too, an important deadline is expiring: at the end of this month, the crisis collective agreement, which regulates short-time work, among other things, ends. So time is pressing.

Therefore, as a first step, Lufthansa now wants to set up a kind of rescue company for the affected Germanwings pilots. They do not want to lay off the pilots, which is also likely to be related to the currently strong demand for flight tickets.

In a second step, the new company could then be given an operating license (AOC) for its own flight operations. It usually takes a few months to get such a permit.

There is still time for further talks

So there is still a window of opportunity for further negotiations with the VC union. That should probably be used. According to Lufthansa, further talks have been agreed with VC. But both sides are far apart so far.

Lufthansa wants to use the crisis to make the group leaner overall. In the eyes of the management, it is no longer possible to manage at least 325 aircraft in the so-called core companies – with pilots who are subject to the well-endowed group wage agreement. This is set out in the so-called Perspective Agreement (PPV), which Lufthansa unilaterally terminated. Because private travel in particular is growing strongly for the time being, brands such as Eurowings and Eurowings Discover are to be strengthened.

>> Read about this: With the jumbo to Mallorca: Lufthansa reports a strong increase in passenger numbers and stops job cuts

VC, in turn, complains that Lufthansa is evading tariffs in the direction of cheaper platforms and wants to prevent this. Whether this will succeed, however, remains to be seen. It would not be the first time that Lufthansa has founded a new airline to put pressure on the pilots and avoid expensive collective agreements. Without structural cost improvements, Lufthansa will increasingly develop into a long-haul airline, Michael Niggemann, HR Director at Lufthansa, made unmistakably clear at the end of December.

Should there actually be a new flight operation, the pilots should probably be paid roughly as provided for in the current crisis wage agreement. According to the internal letter to the workforce, the “current conditions” will be used as a basis.

On another issue, however, management and VC have reached an agreement. The flight instructors at the downsized Bremen commercial pilot school should be able to switch to the cockpits of the Lufthansa airlines.

More: Union Ufo fears disadvantages from Eurowings relocation

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