Deutsche Lufthansa AG is struggling to hire cabin crews for new routes, putting growth plans at risk as low wages and years of labour conflict complicate the airline’s recruiting amid a tight German job market.
Through mid-May, Lufthansa has brought on about 500 flight attendants for its namesake carrier, the company said in response to questions from Bloomberg. With the peak summer flying season coming up within a few weeks, that’s a little more than one-third of the brand’s goal to hire 1,400 cabin-crew members in 2016. Including units such as Eurowings, the airline group is seeking 2,800 new flight attendants, adding to a cabin-crew workforce of about 28,000 employees.
With German unemployment touching record lows since late 2014 and a contract dispute with the flight attendants’ union, UFO, now in arbitration, Lufthansa has struggled to lure qualified staff for expansion aimed at taking take advantage of cheap fuel prices. The efforts have been complicated by the airline offering short-term contracts to keep a lid on expenses as it seeks to shift services to the Eurowings low-cost arm. Chief Executive Officer Carsten Spohr earlier this month cited a staff shortage among reasons for scaling back plans to add seat capacity this year.
“Half of our applicants used to come from hotels and restaurants, and given the better prospects there and the worsening conditions at Lufthansa, they’re just not applying any more,” said Nicoley Baublies, a spokesman for UFO. For a look at more elements of Lufthansa’s capacity constraints, click here.
As a stop-gap, Lufthansa reached an agreement with UFO and other labor representatives in March that calls for flight attendants to work about 5 percent more hours in the summer schedule, equivalent to about 1,000 extra positions, while offering full-time status to some part-time employees.
That still failed to meet the company’s needs. As a result, Lufthansa delayed introducing routes to San Jose, California, and Panama City; scaled back staff on some wide-body aircraft, which in turn triggered extra payments to the other attendants on those flights; and leased planes and crews from other providers.