A small group of airfield traffic controllers caused severe disruptions to the flight operations at Germany’s Frankfurt airport for the second day as they stepped up their strike demanding shorter working hours and higher salaries.

Around 200 traffic controllers guiding the taxiing of aircraft on the tarmac, who struck work between 0800 hrs and 2200 hrs local time yesterday, forced the cancellation of around 300 flights at Germany’s largest airport.

German airlines Lufthansa, which has its European hub in Frankfurt, was the worst hit by the strike and it had to ground around 250 flights till Friday afternoon, according to a spokesman for the Fraport AG, the company which operates the airport.

Most of the cancellations were German domestic flights and inter-European flights while almost all inter-continental flights took off and landed as scheduled, the spokesman said.

The striking workers, who belong to the powerful air traffic controllers’ union GdF, announced there will be no strike today and tomorrow, but they will resume their work stoppage next week if no agreement is reached.

“We are determined to continue our strike until our demands are met,” GdF management board member Markus Siebers told a German TV channel.

“We are satisfied with the first two days of the strike and we will continue to stand firm to achieve goal,” he said.

A seven-hour warning strike held on Thursday afternoon led to the cancellation of more than 170 flights and severe disruption to the flight operations.

They have been demanding between 40 and 50 per cent increase in their average annual salary of 45,000 euros and around ten per cent cut in their working hours to compensate for what they claim a “sharp increase in their workload” since the airport opened its fourth runway.

Fraport said it managed to operate around 50 per cent of the flights as it did on Thursday by deploying former airfield traffic controllers now working in other departments at the airport and by training some of its staff in controlling the aircraft traffic on the ground.

Airport officials said a travel chaos at the airport was avoided during the first two days of the strike by informing air travellers in advance about the flight situation, by enabling them to take other flights and by ferrying them by train to various destinations in Germany and in Europe.

Even though no strike is planned for today, the officials said they expect some flight delays or cancellations as it would take at least a day for the airport’s flight operations to return to normal after two-day disruption.

Fraport will have to pay a heavy price for operating 50 per cent of the flights. For the first two days of the strike, Fraport expects a loss of 4 million euros, the spokesman said.

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