* Strike started on Wednesday, extended again to Saturday
* Lufthansa says first two strike days cost it 20 mln euros
* Airline cancels around 2,600 flights over three days
(Releads with union statement on strike extension)
By Peter Maushagen
FRANKFURT/BERLIN, Nov 24 Lufthansa
pilots in Germany said they will extend strike action until
Saturday and target long-haul flights, further raising pressure
on management in a long-running pay dispute.
One of Europe's biggest airlines, Lufthansa has already
grounded nearly 1,800 flights since pilots represented by the
Vereinigung Cockpit (VC) union went on strike on Wednesday,
disrupting travel plans for more than 315,000 passengers.
The strike had originally been planned as a 24-hour walkout
but has now been extended three times.
Lufthansa said earlier on Thursday that it will scrap 830
short- and medium-haul flights on Friday, just over a quarter of
its schedule, hitting more than 100,000 travellers.
Most long-haul flights will be unaffected on Friday, it
On Saturday, however, all long-haul flights leaving Germany
until midnight will be affected, VC announced, without being
In a statement released after trading hours, VC said
comments by Lufthansa Chief Executive Carsten Spohr that the
carrier's future would be on the line if pilots' wages were
raised "amount to a completely exaggerated dramatization."
Harry Hohmeister, a Lufthansa board member, said
cancellations for the first two days of strike action had cost
the airline about 20 million euros ($21 million) and customers
were making fewer bookings.
"Not only have we suffered severe damage (from the strike),
but we're also noticing from mid-term booking numbers that
customer behaviour is changing," Hohmeister said.
Shares in the company fell 1.1 percent on Thursday,
underperforming a slight gain in German blue chips.
The pilots' strike is their 14th walkout since early 2014.
The union wants an average annual pay increase of 3.7 percent
for 5,400 pilots in Germany over a five-year period from 2012.
Lufthansa has offered 2.5 percent over six years to 2019.
The airline has urged the union to enter mediation, but the
union said it wants to see a better offer first.
Lufthansa insists that despite a record profit in 2015, it
has no choice but to cut costs to compete with leaner rivals
such as Ryanair on short-haul routes and Emirates
on long-haul flights.
It has already agreed deals with the main unions
representing ground staff and cabin crew in Germany, leaving an
agreement with its pilots outstanding.
"From a shareholder perspective we would rate the efforts of
management to make the company financially sustainable in the
long term as more valuable, than the short-term pain inflicted
by the strikes," Commerzbank analysts said in a note.
Pilot strikes in 2014 cost Lufthansa 222 million euros,
roughly 21 million euros per day, according to the IW Cologne
Institute for Economic Research. In 2015, walkouts by pilots and
cabin crew cost it 231 million euros, around 30 million per day.
Despite the row with its German pilots, Lufthansa is also
moving forward with plans to expand lower cost operations, using
a Eurowings unit based in Austria. It is in talks over bringing
operations from Air Berlin and Brussels Airlines into the
The row is mirrored at rival Air France-KLM, which
has also seen pilot strikes in France over plans to lower costs.
($1 = 0.9498 euros)
(Additional reporting and writing by Caroline Copley and
Andreas Cremer in Berlin; Editing by Alexander Smith and Susan