Staff war at Lufthansa – Airline enters more turbulence

Flight attendant Anna Schuchert (23) talks about the impact of Corona, resulting in employee fights splitting the staff and the new normal due to the Covid-19 measures.

The airline, founded in 1953, faced a serious existential crisis due to the lockdown of the world beginning March 2020 resulting in the cancellation of more then 23.000 flights in April alone, with many employees loosing their jobs.

“In the beginning we didn’t fly at all.” Now with corona, “Flying has changed completely. Since Corona happened flight plans are only made two weeks in advance.” Everyone will be notified 24hours beforehand when and where to fly to, because of the inconstant pandemic situation in each country.

The work itself on board has changed as well. “Masks are mandatory and we only work with gloves now. More safety measures include a controlled enter and exit strategy and slimmed down service routines on board, to cut down on any unnecessary interaction and communication with the guests.

Probably the most impact happens within the company itself. The mood has shifted during these last months resulting in a bad work atmosphere. “Groups have formed against each other. Old against young, mom’s against non-mom’s.”

The older flight attendants want to get rid of the younger ones arguing the young people have fewer obligations, and they themselves have priority being with the company for so long. The younger employees think that the older workers could also just retire two to three years earlier and therefore save the company a lot of money. It is widely known that the flight attendants of the older generations are amongst those to still earn a lot of money, because of their old contracts that even young upcoming pilots envy them about. Sending those into a transitional supply of retirement opens spots for lots of younger employees to work and safes the company money.

The reality looks like that already: “Currently the older employees request flights, but the airline doesn’t allow the majority to work. Instead for the most part, they have the young employees on duty, because it is cheaper for the company.” That results in arguments, since the older generations have a lot of time on their hands and the younger ones complain about too many flight changes. “The younger employees mostly have jobs aside from flying, to earn their living or study and currently struggle with the spontaneous, incalculable schedules. Plus, we have a definite higher health risk of infecting ourselves with Corona, because we are currently more often in operation then they are, while earning less.”

And then there is the group of flying mother’s, claiming more rights to stay employed, which results in the non-mom’s stating they feel discriminated by implying their right to work based on their family status. “It’s a constant fight”.

The twenty-three year old says flying has changed for her with Covid-19 influencing the layover in different countries: “In China we are tested at the hotels, can’t leave the room and have our food placed in front of the hotel room door”. In other countries it is advised to stay in, only at a few spots you are allowed to move around free. It’s become less fun to be a flight attendant.

As for the future of the airline business, Schuchert says change is on its way. “Airlines and planes will still be needed, but I think the culture of aviation that we at Lufthansa are used to and cultivate will be different. Aviation was competitive beforehand, but now the field is getting even tighter.” There are already fewer planes and employees needed now. A high quality and personal service routine Lufthansa is known for will be more restricted by the Covid measures as well as their target markets: “I think the business clientele flying, which is very important for Lufthansa will shift. People have experienced it is possible to do your meetings from wherever you are. The tourism sector will probably remain the same.”

written by Julia Mueller