It was not until July that the flight operations of the largest German airline, Lufthansa, were almost completely paralyzed for a day. At that time, the ground staff organized in the Verdi union went on strike. Now it’s the turn of the colleagues from above the clouds. On Friday, September 2nd, the pilots of the core company Lufthansa and Lufthansa Cargo, a subsidiary specializing in freight, went on a one-day strike.

The pilots’ union Vereinigung Cockpit (VC) is demanding 5.5 percent more salary this year for around 5,000 employees, automated inflation compensation from 2023 and a new salary table with, among other things, a higher basic salary.

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In the background of this labor dispute, a conflict is smoldering over which Lufthansa pilot is actually deployed on which route. A question that directly affects compensation. In the Corona crisis with the reduced flight operations, Lufthansa set up a new airline with the internal name “Cityline 2” for European flights. Lufthansa pilots deployed on “Cityline 2” earn less than they did under the group wage agreement.

The portal lohnsreporter.de, which according to its own statements obtains its data from “several thousand user details per month”, ranks Lufthansa pilots among the top group in the industry in a 2018 analysis.

The starting salary for first officers (also known as co-pilots) is around 73,000 euros gross per year, for captains the online service states a starting salary of a good 110,000 euros plus allowances. Experienced captains can therefore get 250,000 euros and more.

According to a current Handelsblatt article, Lufthansa itself states a starting salary of 69,000 euros and a maximum salary of up to 275,000 euros for captains of the highest seniority level. There would also be profit-sharing if the airline is profitable.

Same group umbrella, different salary: At Eurowings, a Lufthansa subsidiary since 2011, pilots earn less. According to the Handelsblatt, the starting salary for first officers is around 59,000 instead of 69,000 euros and for captains a maximum of 167,275 instead of 275,000 euros.

There are salary differences in the group – and salary differences in the entire industry of pilots. According to the pilots’ union VC, it depends very much on the airline. Your salary details show a significant spread between salaries:

A look abroad reveals: the pay is very good in France, relatively bad in Ireland. A captain at Air France KLM can earn up to 230,000 euros, according to data from lohnsreporter.de. For colleagues at the Irish low-cost airline Ryanair, on the other hand, the limit is 90,000 euros.

The also popular low-cost provider Easyjet pays its pilots a maximum of 134,000 euros, namely at Easyjet Switzerland.

If you want to become a pilot, you have to go through a two-year training course at a flight school. The pilots’ union VC puts the costs incurred at between 60,000 and 120,000 euros, depending on the training facility, plus living expenses and accommodation.

Some airlines demanded an additional amount of up to 30,000 euros for the necessary authorization to fly a certain type of aircraft.

Many pilots have debts that have to be paid off when they start their careers. The VC also describes obtaining a license over a longer period of time as a possible “significant cost factor”.