Strike Grounds Hundreds of Flights in Germany

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Air passengers in Germany faced delays, disruption and hundreds of flight cancellations across the country Thursday as ground staff, baggage handlers and maintenance workers walked out over pay.

Lufthansa, Germany's biggest airline and hardest hit by the strike, on Wednesday announced that it would cancel around 600 of its European and domestic flights until 2:00 pm (1300 GMT).

In Frankfurt alone, Lufthansa's hub, airport operator Fraport said that some 550 flights have been cancelled out of a total 1,300 scheduled arrivals and departures.

The strikes are being organised by the giant services sector union Verdi and follows a series of walkouts in kindergartens and other public services in recent weeks.

But other airlines insist that the impact so far appears to be rather limited.

Air Berlin, Germany's second biggest airline, listed just six cancellations of flights -- all to and from Frankfurt -- on its website.

Air France also said it would not be greatly affected with just a single flight to Cologne-Bonn airport cancelled so far.

And Italian airline Alitalia said it did not expect any disruptions.

A spokesman for Munich airport, the country's second-biggest, said 130 flights have been cancelled so far, mostly by Lufthansa.

In order to limit the anticipated chaos, airlines have been advising passengers to check online before travelling.

And Fraport has advised passengers booked on the cancelled flights not to bother turning up at all.

The national rail operator, Deutsche Bahn, is mobilizing additional staff to cope with the expected increase in rail traffic as air passengers take the train instead.

Under an agreement between the rail operator and the airlines, passengers holding valid tickets for domestic flights on Lufthansa, Germanwings or Air Berlin can swap them for train tickets.

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