German air traffic strike averted at last minute

FRANKFURT Tue Aug 9, 2011 6:03am EDT

A Brussels airlines aircraft passes along the air traffic control tower and terminal building at Berlin's Tegel airport, August 3, 2011. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

A Brussels airlines aircraft passes along the air traffic control tower and terminal building at Berlin's Tegel airport, August 3, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Fabrizio Bensch

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - German air traffic controllers will not strike on Tuesday morning, after their employer agreed to mediation at the last minute.

Shortly after midnight, a judge in Frankfurt rejected an appeal from the air traffic controllers' authority, the DFS, thus allowing a six-hour strike planned by air traffic controllers' union GdF for 0400-1000 GMT on Tuesday to go ahead.

However, just after the final decision was announced, the DFS air traffic controllers' authority said it would enter mediation, thus invoking a no-strike clause for four weeks.

Airlines and airports had spent Monday preparing for the strike, which the BDL air travel association said would affect about 3,000 domestic and international flights and some 400,000 passengers.

Lufthansa (LHAG.DE), Air Berlin (AB1.DE), Thomas Cook's airline Condor (TCG.L) and TUI (TUIGn.DE) TT.L all said they were bringing dozens of departures forward to before 0400 GMT, with updated flight times to be found on their websites.

Some package holiday flights will be kept at the earlier departure time, even now that the strike has been averted.

"It's unbelievable that 400,000 people who want to fly tomorrow are being held hostage," Condor boss Ralf Teckentrup said.

Some long-haul flights had already taken off in order to reach Germany before the strike started, Lufthansa said.

Rail company Deutsche Bahn said it would work with Lufthansa and Air Berlin to switch people travelling within Germany on to trains.

While holidaymakers should still make their flights, it seems likely that many business trips would have been cancelled.

"We regret that we could not spare our customers, the passengers, the damage by any other means," Jens Bergmann, labour director at the DFS.

The DFS had last week successfully brought an injunction against a strike planned for last Thursday.

(Editing by Gary Hill)