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German union strike hits fliers

Hundreds of fliers to Europe from Calcutta will be grounded or forced to rejig their travel schedules this week, thanks to a strike called by a German pilots’ union — not known to owe allegiance to either the CPM or the Trinamul Congress — starting Monday.

The four-day walkout by Lufthansa pilots to participate in a strike for pay hike called by the Vereinigung Cockpit (VC) has sent schedules haywire, denying Calcutta its sole direct air link with Europe.

Lufthansa operates three flights in a week from Calcutta — on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.

“The Frankfurt-Calcutta flight and the one out of Calcutta on Tuesday have been cancelled. The status of Thursday’s flight is uncertain,” a Lufthansa official said on Sunday.

“Passengers booked on a Lufthansa flight between February 22 and 25 can rebook free of charge on another Lufthansa flight if they wish to change their travel plans, provided their ticket was issued before February 18, the new travel date is before March 31 and no change is made in their departure and arrival destination,” said an official statement issued by Lufthansa.

“Should the purpose of a journey become null and void because of a flight cancellation, passengers can annul their flight booking free of charge,” the statement added.

For Calcutta businessman Satyajit Burman, Europe will be a no-go this time as he was scheduled to take the Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt on Tuesday on his way to the US. “When I came to know about the strike I booked my ticket on Emirates. I had some urgent work in Europe but that will have to wait,” said Burman, a frequent flier.

The strike has put many fliers from the city in a fix. “After all, Lufthansa is the only direct connection from Calcutta to Europe after the withdrawal of British Airways in March 2009,” said Anil Punjabi, the chairman (east) of the Travel Agents Federation of India. “Most are rebooking their tickets on other airlines through Mumbai, Delhi, Dubai and some Southeast Asian cities.”

Those booked from Frankfurt on their way back to the city are also facing a lot of harassment because of last-minute alterations, said tour operators.

Passengers from India can call Lufthansa’s toll-free number (18001025838) for information about flight bookings, re-bookings and cancellations.

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