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August 18, 2017

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Lufthansa grounds half of flights as strike begins

FRANKFURT -- Striking Lufthansa cabin staff said they saw signs of possible movement in their bitter wage dispute as a 24-hour walkout grounded half of the 1,800 flights of Germany's biggest airline on Friday.

"We've received clear signals that Lufthansa is going to move," the head of the UFO labor union Nicoley Baublies told AFP.

The two sides could even meet for talks this weekend, Baublies suggested.

"We'll try from our side, and have the impression that management are also interested," he said, adding it was unclear whether a mediator would be needed at this point.

Baublies also said there would only be further walkouts if "the two sides don't move closer."

And following the 24-hour stoppage on Friday — the third separate day of industrial action in a week — no further strikes were planned in the next few days, he told ZDF public television.

The latest strike began at midnight (2200 GMT) and so far "more than 100,000 passengers are affected," said a Lufthansa spokesman, adding that around half of the airline's 1,800 daily flights had been cancelled.

Frankfurt airport, Lufthansa's main hub and Europe's third-busiest airport, was "most affected."

But chaos had been averted because the airline had informed passengers beforehand about cancellations via text messages and Lufthansa had also posted information on its website, a spokesman said.

"Lufthansa seems to have been better prepared this time round," said UFO chief Baublies.

The union claims it is the biggest-ever strike in Lufthansa's history, but the airline itself refused to comment on that information.

The Lufthansa spokesman said "all German regions and all types of flights are affected," including long-haul flights.

The company had been expecting to cancel 1,200 flights, or two-thirds, as a result of Friday's strike.

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