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Lufthansa cancels 2,200 flights as Europe’s travel chaos mounts

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BERLIN (BLOOMBERG) – Deutsche Lufthansa cancelled 2,200 flights after a wave of Covid-19 infections worsened staffing shortages, adding to Europe’s travel chaos as the crucial summer vacation period gets under way.

The airline scrapped both German domestic and European routes for July and August, a spokesman said. That follows 900 cancellations announced earlier this month.

Germany and other European countries have been confronted by a new outbreak of Covid-19 infections. While less deadly than previous waves, it is causing growing absences from workplaces, worsening acute labour shortages at airlines.

Travel chaos has mounted throughout Europe as carriers face resurgent post-lockdown demand. Airlines cut back staffing during the pandemic and were slow to rebuild, worried about the resiliency of ticket sales.

Growing labour unrest as workers seek pay increases to keep up with inflation is adding to the problem, with strikes threatened or under way at airlines including Ryanair and British Airways.

British Airways workers at London Heathrow airport are set to strike in a dispute over pay.

The GMB and Unite unions said hundreds of British Airways check-in staff backed walkouts during the peak vacation period after the carrier refused to reverse a 10 per cent pay cut imposed during the pandemic. Unite said it would give the airline “a short window of opportunity” to reinstate wages before posting strike dates.

Surging inflation has prompted aviation industry workers to step up campaigns for pay hikes, emboldened by a rapid rebound in travel coupled with an industry-wide staffing shortage that has forced hubs across Europe to cancel hundreds of scheduled flights.

London Gatwick and Amsterdam Schiphol both said last week they were capping capacity.

British Airways is especially vulnerable to walkouts after offloading 10,000 staff during the coronavirus crisis and already being compelled to curb operations at the busiest time of the year to minimise disruption.

Mr Luis Gallego, chief executive of IAG, the parent company of British Airways, warned on Wednesday that strikes at the airline were a distinct possibility, saying the carrier faced a “tough summer” and needed to talk with employees and “link the recovery of the company with the recovery of all our people”.

British Airways, which employees about 30,000 people, said on Thursday it was disappointed with the strike vote, and that it had offered a 10 per cent payment to compensate for the cuts during the pandemic which was accepted by the majority of other employees.

“We are fully committed to work together to find a solution,” the company said in a statement. “We will of course keep our customers updated about what this means for them as the situation evolves.”

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