Strikes ground most Lufthansa flights Monday

German airline Lufthansa cancelled most of its domestic, European and long-haul flights to and from airports across the country Monday as thousands of staff walked out in pursuit of higher pay.

Out of nearly 1,800 planned flights on Monday, "we will operate 20 short and medium-range flights and 12 long-distance services," a spokesman told AFP.

At Lufthansa's main hub in Frankfurt, Germany's biggest and Europe's third-biggest airport, just six out of a total 50 flights would go ahead, and three from 17 at Munich.

Services union Verdi called the 24-hour warning strike after three rounds of pay talks with management ended without any agreement.

Verdi is demanding a 5.2-percent pay increase for 33,000 Lufthansa ground staff, plus employees of various subsidiaries as well as cabin crew members who are Verdi members.

The escalating pay dispute comes a month after Lufthansa was forced to cancel nearly 700 out of a total 1,800 flights due to half a day of warning strikes.

Lufthansa board member Stefan Lauer has described the action as a "de facto an all-out strike" that was "a completely excessive measure that can in no way be justified in view of the current state of negotiations."

Verdi has accused management of "playing with employees' fears about their future and their jobs" in refusing to make any concrete guarantees.

The union has complained that the offer tabled by management represented an increase of 0.4-0.6 percent over a period of 12 months.

But Lufthansa insists its offer represents a pay increase of 2.3 percent for Lufthansa Technik, 2.1 percent for staff at Lufthansa Cargo and Lufthansa Systems and 1.7 percent for employees at the main company.

The situation at airports was nevertheless far from chaotic as the airline had published its contingency flight timetable at the weekend, informing passengers in advance which flights would be cancelled.

Tickets for the cancelled flights can be reimbursed or exchanged for an alternative flight and for services within Germany, passengers can switch to rail under an agreement with rail operator Deutsche Bahn, which also laid on extra trains and staff.

Lufthansa's low-cost subsidiary, Germanwings, was not affected by strikes.