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February 24, 2010

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French strike as Lufthansa pilots go back

FRENCH air traffic controllers went on strike yesterday, just as pilots at German flagship carrier Lufthansa agreed to suspend their strike until March 8.

"Of course it takes some time until the planes are back at all 200 locations that the Lufthansa network comprises around the world, and the crews need to be positioned again, too," Lufthansa spokesman Klaus Walther said.

Travelers are also waiting for news on when cabin crew at British Airways will plan a work stoppage after the union Unite voted on Monday in favor of industrial action to protest cost cuts.

BA wants three quarters of its crew to accept a pay freeze this year, along with other cost-cutting measures.

This is the union's second attempt at industrial action after a court forced the workers to abandon plans for a 12-day strike over Christmas.

In France, airlines had to cancel half of the short and medium-haul flights at Paris's Orly airport and a quarter of such flights at the international Charles de Gaulle airport.

The French unions have called for a five-day strike to protest plans to modernize air traffic signed by Germany, Belgium, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

The unions fear the reforms will lead to layoffs.

The pilots' strike at Lufthansa, which was meant to last until tomorrow, saw about 900 flights canceled on Monday, causing travel chaos and leaving thousands of travelers around the world stranded.

Workers fear the airline, which aims to cut 1 billion euros (US$1.4 billion) in costs by 2011, wants to expand the foreign units while shrinking "Lufthansa-Classic" because pilots and cabin crew make less money outside of Germany.

At a hastily arranged court hearing, Lufthansa and pilots' union Vereinigung Cockpit agreed to try to work out their differences after the airline had asked the court to help it halt the strike.

"We are cautiously optimistic that both parties will find a solution without further strike measures," said BHF Bank analyst Nils Machemehl.


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