Court Ruling Could Help Lufthansa in Event of Strike Action

All eyes are on a Deutsche Lufthansa this week, which is set to make a new wage offer aimed at averting a cabin crew strike across all regions of Germany.

Lufthansa and German union UFO failed to reach a compromise on Aug. 16 in a dispute about wages, outsourcing and temporary workers. UFO has obtained member support for a strike in past weeks, and Friday last week called Lufthansa’s recent offer unacceptable.

Strikes are an especially sensitive issue for the German airline. Lufthansa’s shares fell to an intraday low of €9.76 Friday, ahead of UFO’s decision to hold off a strike, pending a revised offer. The shares were changing hands for €9.92 in early trading today.

Disruptions caused by bad weather or strikes are always a problem for airlines. However, as of Tuesday Lufthansa has one less thing to worry about: Germany’s Federal Court of Justice ruled that passengers can’t claim compensation from airlines if their flights are cancelled due to “exceptional circumstances.” Citing the jurisprudence of the European Court of Justice, the court ruled that strikes fall into this category.

The court decision was based on a case dating back to 2010. In it, passengers sought €600 each from Lufthansa after their intercontinental flights to Germany were cancelled. The claimants, flying from Miami, arrived in Germany a few days later than scheduled. While Lufthansa provided accommodation, food and organized a later flight, the passengers wanted additional compensation.

With a new strike looming, Lufthansa said it welcomed the court’s decision. An obligation to make payments for cancelled flights beyond Lufthansa’s control would have led to disproportionate costs and financial strain for the company, a company spokeswoman said.

UFO, which represents about 18,000 flight attendants, expects to make a final decision on whether to strike on Thursday this week, provided Lufthansa ups its wage offer.

A round of strikes would be the second this year for Lufthansa. In February, about 1,700 flights were cancelled in Frankfurt, Europe’s third-busiest airport, due to industrial action by the GdF union, which represents Lufthansa air traffic controllers. Lufthansa said the strikes cost the airline at least €10 million.