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European business travelers fatigued
by a lengthy series of air industry strikes in the past six months have
received cheering news from both British Airways and Lufthansa in recent days. Hopes
of finding an end to the bitter industrial dispute between British Airways and
its cabin crew rose on Tuesday after their union postponed a ballot for a fresh
round of walkouts. Meanwhile, leaders of the Vereinigung Cockpit union, which
represents Lufthansa pilots, last Friday said they will recommend a compromise
deal that has been hammered out on pay and conditions.
Unite, the union representing BA cabin crew, postponed its
ballot after the airline tabled a fresh offer with the threat of withdrawing it
if the ballot went ahead. Cabin crew originally went on strike over plans by BA
to reduce cabin crew numbers on long-haul flights, but the dispute escalated
after the airline took punitive action against strikers. The new offer restores
some of the travel perks BA had removed, and also guarantees two years of pay
increases, although the Unite leadership said it would not recommend the offer
because of various conditions attached.
If flight attendants decide to reject the new BA offer, the
union will stage a fresh ballot which could lead to them walking out again from
the second week of August. So far, the airline has lost £154 million as a
result of 22 days of strikes since March.
In Germany, Cockpit leaders accepted a deal that will see a
freeze in pilots' pay until March 2011. In return, Lufthansa guaranteed it would
not farm out jobs on its core German-based airline to lower-paid pilots at some
of its subsidiaries. Lufthansa pilots went on strike in February and came close
to doing so again in April when the matter went to arbitration.
In other Lufthansa news, Europe's largest carrier revealed
in an analysts' call this week that it is working on restructuring its
short-haul cabins. It also announced that PrivatAir will launch a service under
Lufthansa branding from Frankfurt to Pointe-Noire in Congo, an important city
for the oil industry. The new route starts Nov. 3.