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AIRLINES IN EUROPE FACE WAVE OF STRIKES

By NBF NEWS
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Passengers use e-ticket check-in desks on the third day of a three day strike by British Airways cabin crew. Photo: REUTERS

As a strike by British Airways cabin crew entered its third day Monday, travellers were bracing for even worse turmoil to come, with labour strife spreading to other European airlines.

British Airways said it was on track to fly more than 60 per cent of passengers despite the labour action, which was to end Monday night but resume this weekend.

Meanwhile, the Italian carrier, Alitalia, cancelled or delayed flights across the country because of a four-hour strike by pilots, flight attendants and baggage handlers, news agencies reported.

Air France crews are to walk off the job for four days beginning Sunday, and pilots at Lufthansa and TAP Portugal are also in a combative mood.

A British Airways spokesperson in London declined to say how many flights had been cancelled on Monday.

'We're looking to move over 60 per cent of our passengers today,' said the spokesperson, who did not want to be identified because of company policy. 'The contingency plans are going well.'

The airline had said Friday that it expected to fly 65 per cent of its passengers over the three days Saturday-Monday, and that it expected to cancel 1,100 flights of the 1,950 scheduled for the period.

The Unite union, which is representing the BA crews, said Monday morning that of 77 flights scheduled, 37 had been empty, and that most service to the United States was 'out.' It said only three flights were working normally, to Hong Kong, Bangkok and Vancouver.

BA cabin crews are planning another four-day walk-off starting Saturday.

Grievances
In France, the Sud Aérien union called for the strike last week to protest what they say are management's efforts to undermine their contract. The union called the job action 'essentially a strike for jobs and working conditions.'

Air France is also seeking to cut costs to compete with lower-cost airlines.

TAP Portuguese Airlines pilots are planning to walk off the job on Friday through March 31, according to the airline.

The Lufthansa pilots' union said in a statement Monday that negotiations with management have gone nowhere, and that pilots at Lufthansa, Lufthansa Cargo and Germanwings were planning to strike for four days beginning April 13. They said the dates had been set so as not to disrupt the vacation plans of customers during the Easter holidays, and also 'to give Lufthansa's top management enough time to change course.'

The current offer on the table consists of a 21-month contract with no salary increase and a 'considerable worsening of working conditions,' the Cockpit Association said. 'A zero-round or even reductions would only be considered if Lufthansa is prepared to stand by the existing agreement for job security,' the union's negotiating committee said.

The British strike began Saturday, after more than a year of talks over British Airways' efforts to cut £60 million, or $90 million, in annual costs through a two-year wage freeze for cabin crew and changes to work contracts.

Salaries for BA cabin crews are nearly double rivals', according to the British Civil Aviation Authority, and the airline argues the savings are necessary if it is to remain competitive at a time when the industry is struggling.