Lufthansa Expects Significant Catering Disruption Today

**Update: 19/12/2019 @ 17:40 UTC – Lufthansa issued a statement that strikes did not go ahead but catering was still disrupted. **

“Yesterday (Wed 18 Dec) evening, the labor court banned the strike previously announced for today (Thu 19 Dec) at LSG Sky Chefs in Frankfurt and Munich. Finally, the strike did not take place. However, production bottlenecks continue due to the court’s short-term decision in the late evening of Wednesday and higher sickness rates in LSG’s plants. As a result, Lufthansa is unable to provide the usual selection of beverages and meals on some domestic German and European continental routes. Long-haul flights are not affected. The passengers will be offered the regular choice of meals and drinks. Lufthansa nevertheless asks its passengers to continue to inform themselves about the current status on, as a short-term change in the situation cannot be ruled out at the present time.”

Lufthansa passengers will be going hungry for the next two days as a strike forces the airline to cut back on meals. Lufthansa will not offer any meals on most of its flights but passengers can claim meal refunds and free meals in transit.

Lufthansa aircraft behind LSG Catering Trucks
The catering strike will only affect services from Munich and Frankfurt. Photo: Raimond Spekking via Wikimedia Commons

The Lufthansa famine

Lufthansa yesterday issued a press release regarding the catering on its flights between 19th and 21st December 2019. The German air carrier said that it will be unable to provide any catering options on its European and domestic flights to and from Munich and Frankfurt airports. Long-haul passengers fare a little better. There will be a reduced food service flying from Frankfurt and Munich. However, Lufthansa will offer normal catering for flights incoming to Germany.

Aircraft being serviced by LSG Sky Chefs
The catering strike will only affect services from Munich and Frankfurt. Photo: Xnatedawgx via Wikimedia Commons

Safe to say, canceling in-flight catering options was not Lufthansa’s choice. The airline was forced to seek alternative arrangements after the Ver.di trade union called for a strike. The organization asked employees of Lufthansa’s catering subsidiary to stage a strike in demand for better job security. There are fears that when Lufthansa’s company is inherited by catering conglomerate Gate Gourmet employees will face a pay cut. And that’s because LSG Sky Chefs does not currently protect employee income.

A spokesperson for Verdi said in a statement:

“We ask LSG to secure the income of around 7,000 employees by collective agreement. Social responsibility means relieving employees of their livelihood and creating legal security…Unfortunately, the last few weeks have not been used by the employer for a friendly solution.”

If LSG Sky Chefs had negotiated earlier with its employees for better conditions then Ver.di suggests that the strike could have been prevented. As it stands, industrial action has already begun and will last 24 hours until midnight on Thursday 20th December 2019. But the Lufthansa catering backlog might not be reinstated until 22nd December 2019.

An expensive operation

Whilst complete operational strikes can cause a lot of disruption, a strike with catering also has financial implications. They’re not as costly but they still make their mark.

Example of Lufthansa plane food
Cushioning the customer impact is likely to be more expensive. Photo: chinaoffseason via Flickr

Lufthansa has said that it will be providing free snacks and beverages for transiting passengers in Munich and Frankfurt. In addition, it will reimburse customers if they purchase meals themselves after exiting security checks. And that’s likely to come at a big cost for Lufthansa since it has no control over the price of food which will be purchased at a commercial rate. Lufthansa’s promise of fiscal reimbursement is “up to a reasonable level”, which is clearly also subjective.

What’s more, the airline will be offering passengers the ability to rebook their flights between now and 5th January 2020 for no extra cost. If passengers book the same route with the same seating class they will not have to pay a penny. And for those cost-conscious folk, booking in a lower class on the same route could see refunds. That’s another unexpected payout for Lufthansa and profitable seats clinched from its grasp.

What’s the resolution?

Well, for now, there is nothing that can be done to prevent the strike but Lufthansa’s subsidiary is likely going to want to do something about the demands of its employees. It’s not the first strike that Lufthansa has had and necessary changes are important to keep up a smooth operation and positive customer sentiment.

The union has issued a rather bitter warning, threatening further strike action if the disputes over pay cannot be resolved. It said:

“ver.di asks the passengers for their understanding and hopes that the Lufthansa subsidiary will finally make further industrial action unnecessary by stepping in.”

Will you be affected by the Lufthansa catering strike? Let us know in the comments!