Aviation News

February 17, 2012

Hundreds of Flights Grounded as Frankfurt Air Traffic Controllers Strike

Frankfurt Am Main Airport map
Frankfurt Am Main Airport map.
More than 400 flights have been canceled at Frankfurt Airport in Germany after ground controllers launched a two-day strike over a wage dispute on Thursday, aviation officials said early Friday.

Only 16 of the 200 ground controllers reported for work on Thursday after the German union for air traffic workers (GdF) announced a seven-hour strike between 3 p.m. and 10 p.m. local time. As a result, at least 150 flights were canceled on Thursday at Europe’s third-biggest airport.

But GdF announced it would strike again on Friday between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. local time, threatening 1,082 scheduled flights. As of 6 a.m. on Friday morning, 257 scheduled flights for Friday had already been canceled, and airport officials expect that number to increase throughout the day as airlines are forced to scrap flights.

The strike comes after the air traffic control labor union failed to reach a wage agreement with airport operator Fraport. The company says the union’s demands are too high, and rival labor groups at the airport have voiced anger at GdF, portraying it as greedy.

“The union remains completely intransigent and irresponsible in its demands for high, double-digit pay increases and other adjustments for working hours and special benefits ranging between 50 and 70 percent,” said Herbert Mai, Fraport’s executive board member for labor relations.

Mai accused GdF of intentionally spreading incorrect information and being unwilling to find a compromise solution. “Indeed, Fraport has largely accepted GdF’s demands as far as Apron Control employees are concerned,” he said. “Regarding the other staff groups in the traffic operations center and involved in supervision activities on the airport ramp, the union’s demands are extremely high in relation to comparable activities in other areas – and thus cannot be implemented.”

But the Fraport official said it remains committed to resume talks with GdF. “We regret that GdF’s rigid position has been taken at the expense of the passengers, airlines and employees,” he said. “We remain committed to our offer and to resuming talks, as long as GdF is willing to engage in realistic negotiations.”