Flight attendants of German airline Lufthansa went on strike in Frankfurt and Berlin on Tuesday morning, and walkouts at Munich airport—another big hub for Lufthansa—are scheduled to take place in the afternoon.
A Lufthansa spokesperson told NBC News that more than half of all domestic and inner-European flights had to be cancelled. A third of all intercontinental flights are also affected and more delays and cancellations are expected to follow.
The UFO union, representing Lufthansa’s cabin crews, is demanding a 5 percent wage increase and no outsourcing of jobs. It says that it will expand the strikes across Germany, if Lufthansa does not give in on its demands.
Experts estimate that Lufthansa could be losing more than $12 million per day as a result of the strikes.
“Our leeway for preparatory measures was very limited, as the union announced the strike locations at very short notice and information from union representatives is only trickling in,” Claudia Lange, a Lufthansa spokeswoman said.
Lufthansa says it has brought in additional personnel to handle the re-booking and cancellation proceduresat its airport counters. Stranded customers of the airline are being supplied with snacks and beverages at the airports.
"In the morning hours, the situation in Terminal one has been rather calm, but we are prepared to set up field beds for stranded passengers, if necessary," Christopher Holschier, from Frankfurt Airport [Fraport] told NBC News.
During major flight disruptions caused by a massive ash cloud from an Iceland volcano in 2010, Frankfurt airport officials had set up dozens of cots for stranded passengers.
According to officials, passengers with Lufthansa tickets for domestic flights can use train connections free of charge today and the airline advises its customers to check for the status of their flights online. A majority of Lufthansa passengers has already been informed with text messages and emails about delays and cancellations.
“We have already sent out more than 12,000 text messages to our customers,” Lufthansa spokesman Klaus Walther told German public broadcaster ZDF.
While Lufthansa says it will not comment on the expected economic fallout of the strike, officials say that a strike announcement alone has monetary effects.
“The strike announcement already leads to uncertainty and has a negative effect on the booking behavior of our customers,” a Lufthansa spokesperson told NBC News.
“We estimate that Lufthansa could be losing up to 10 million euros ($12.5 million) per day,” Dr. Stefan Kick, research analyst at Frankfurt stock broker firm Silvia Quandt told NBC News.
“But, it is almost impossible to quantify all the side effects of a strike, such as passenger exodus to other airlines and, for example, price breaksthat Lufthansa might have to give its passengers,” Stefan Kick added.
Following three years of stagnant wages, the UFO union has been negotiating for a pay increase of five percent backdated to January. Lufthansa has so far offered 3.5 percent.
The union is also seeking guarantees from its employer not to use temporary contract workers and to scale back on further plans for outsourcing labor.
Lufthansa officials say that they are hoping to return to the negotiating table as soon as possible.
“We have signaled sufficient concessions in order to return to the negotiating table,” Lufthansa spokesman Klaus Walther told German television ZDF.
But, both sides seem to be in a gridlock at the moment, which could lead to further strike measures in the coming weeks.
On its website, the UFO union wrote: “We very much regret that this escalation had to happen, but the negotiations have reached a point, where there is no alternative to a strike.”