FRANKFURT (AFP) - Lufthansa, Germany's biggest airline, said on Monday that it will cancel most of its flights later this week due to a pilots' strike.
"As a result of the planned strike by the pilots' union Cockpit, around 3,800 flights will be cancelled on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. During the three-day stoppage by Cockpit teams, there will only be around 500 short- and long-haul flights by Lufthansa and Germanwings," the carrier said in a statement.
"A total of 425,000 passengers will be affected by the stoppages," it said.
Lufthansa said it would inform passengers via text message or email about the flight changes.
Most domestic and European flights on the strike days would be operated by Lufthansa Group companies Eurowings, Lufthansa CityLine and Air Dolomiti, whose pilots were not taking part in the strike, the statement said.
In addition to passenger services, the group's freight carrier, Lufthansa Cargo, will also be affected, with 23 out of 31 planned cargo flights from Frankfurt being cancelled.
Cockpit originally called for three full days of strikes last week, just a day after Lufthansa was forced to cancel around 600 flights following stoppages by ground staff, baggage handlers and maintenance workers at Germany's main airports.
In a strike ballot earlier this month, pilots from Lufthansa, Lufthansa Cargo and Germanwings voted 99.1 per cent in favour of possible strike action in pursuit of their demands for higher pay and better provisions for pilots nearing retirement age.
"I deeply regret that Cockpit is not prepared to come to a solution via negotiation and without a labour dispute," said Lufthansa personnel chief Bettina Volkens.
"It is difficult to comprehend, both for our customers and for the more than 100,000 employees elsewhere within the Lufthansa group, why the union is calling for a three-day strike on this basis."
The airline said it was preparing contingency plans to limit the fallout for customers and would mobilise additional staff in passenger terminals.
Lufthansa estimated it stood to lose tens of millions of euros because of the three days of strikes.
Pilots of Lufthansa's subsidiaries Swiss International Air Lines, Austrian Airlines, Eurowings, Lufthansa CityLine and Air Dolomiti, as well as pilots of Brussels Airlines, will not participate. Lufthansa said those airlines would employ bigger jets on their services in and out of Germany so as to be able to carry Lufthansa customers.
Alternatively, Lufthansa would re-book passengers onto other airlines or, in the case of domestic flights, onto national rail operator Deutsche Bahn, it said.