Thousands of passengers face travel chaos as Lufthansa pilots go on strike for ninth time this year

BERLIN (Reuters) - The German pilots' union VC called a strike at Deutsche Lufthansa for Monday and Tuesday after talks broke down over retirement benefits, leading to the cancellation of more than 1,000 flights.

The dispute, over proposed changes to an early retirement scheme for pilots that was developed decades ago, has resulted in repeated strikes this year, affecting thousands of holiday and business passengers at Germany's largest airline.

The union said the Germany-wide strike would last from midday (1100 GMT) on Monday to 11:59 pm (2259 GMT) on Tuesday for short- and medium-haul flights, as well as from 3 a.m. (0200 GMT) to 11:59 pm (2259 GMT) on Tuesday for long-haul flights.

According to a list on the Lufthansa website, more than 1,000 flights have been cancelled, mostly on Monday and Tuesday, but a few also on Wednesday and Thursday.

Pilots flying for Lufthansa Cargo will also strike from 3 a.m. to 11.59 pm on Tuesday. Flights of budget arm Germanwings will not be affected.

Lufthansa said the strike was completely disproportionate and called for an immediate resumption of talks.

It said it made concessions in recent talks, including a 5 per cent pay rise, but reiterated that it would not accept a demand that new pilots, as well as those already with the company, should be able to retire at 55.

Eight walkouts by staff this year has wiped 160 million euros off the carrier's operating profit, adding to pressure from a stuttering global economy and increased competition.

Lufthansa, which last month lowered its profit guidance for 2015 for the second time this year, is expanding low-cost operations to better compete with budget carriers and Gulf rivals and to outflank the pilots' union.

Lufthansa plans to use other pilots from within the group who are not on expensive collective labour agreements to staff tourist routes, where the brand, which usually focuses on business travellers, is trying to reduce costs.

Passenger transport in Germany has also been disrupted by train drivers' strikes this year. Their latest walkout earlier this month thwarted many Germans' plans to travel by rail to celebrations marking the 25th anniversary of the Berlin Wall's fall.

Like the pilots, train drivers have yet to reach a deal with their employers.