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BERLIN: Pilots at Lufthansa walked out on Friday, forcing the German airline to cancel hundreds of flights and leave holidaymakers stranded.

Labour union Vereinigung Cockpit (VC) had said on Wednesday that pay talks with Lufthansa had failed, calling on pilots at both the passenger airline and at Lufthansa Cargo to go on strike.

VC is demanding a 5.5% pay rise this year for its more than 5,000 pilots and automatic inflation compensation thereafter.

Lufthansa has offered a total of 900 euros ($901.35) more in basic pay per month in two stages over an 18-month term as well as an agreement guaranteeing cockpit staff a minimum fleet size.

Strikes and staff shortages have already forced airlines including Lufthansa to cancel thousands of flights this summer and caused hours-long queues at major airports, frustrating holidaymakers keen to travel after COVID-19 lockdowns.

VC’s demands also come against the backdrop of soaring energy and food prices, with German inflation rising to its highest level in almost 50 years in August.

Lufthansa expects positive quarter despite airport chaos

Lufthansa cancelled about 800 flights at its main bases in Frankfurt and Munich, affecting 130,000 passengers.

Last month, Lufthansa’s management reached a pay deal with ground staff, averting further walkouts after a strike had forced it to cancel more than 1,000 flights.

Lufthansa also faces possible walkouts by pilots of subsidiary Eurowings, who have voted for industrial action but are due to hold a round of talks with management next week.

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