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Lufthansa flights hit as crews strike over pensions

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(Reuters) — German airline Lufthansa canceled hundreds of flights on Friday after cabin crew union UFO announced a walkout on flights from Frankfurt and Duesseldorf that could start the longest ever strike action at the carrier.

On the first day of a planned week of strike action over failed pension talks, flight attendants are being called to strike at Frankfurt, Lufthansa’s biggest hub, and Duesseldorf, affecting around 37,500 passengers.

Lufthansa said it had canceled 290 flights planned for Friday including 15 long-haul departures, which are typically more profitable for airlines. Eight long-haul flights will still take off, it said.

More strike action can be expected on Saturday at Frankfurt, the union said on Friday, but Lufthansa’s other main hub in Munich will not be subject to walkouts until after Sunday, given school holidays in that region.

Lufthansa Group airlines Swiss, Austrian Airlines, Germanwings, Eurowings, Brussels Airlines, Air Dolomiti and Cityline will not be affected by the strike. That means that overall, the airlines group can carry out 90% of the 3,000 flights it typically operates on a Friday.

The walkout comes after Lufthansa and the union failed to reach an agreement in a long-running row over early retirement benefits and pensions.

Lufthansa is trying to negotiate with various staff groups to bring down pension costs as part of a savings drive.

Should Lufthansa management not make concessions, the union will carry out a threat to stage more walkouts until Nov. 13, it said.

“We regret this course of action, but we see no alternative,” union head Nicoley Baublies said.