Lufthansa will employ temporary workers as cabin crew for its planned operation at Berlin's new airport, starting in June.
AviationPower, a Hamburg-based joint venture between temporary staff specialist Manpower and Lufthansa Technical Training, is currently recruiting applicants for flight attendant positions at the airline in the German capital.
Lufthansa wants to hire around 200 cabin crew members for two years. Thereafter, the co-operation with the agency is to be reviewed, a spokesman for the airline said.
The flight attendants, who have a permanent contract with AviationPower, would then continue working for the agency, either for Lufthansa or other carriers, or apply for direct employment with Lufthansa, according to AviationPower.
The agency is currently launching its cabin crew hire scheme and has not yet won other customer airlines in addition to Lufthansa.
While the external employees will have the same basic salary as their peers at Lufthansa, the former's pay will not be reviewed in the same intervals. The external staff members will also not be eligible to the same company benefits, such as the airline's pension scheme.
Germany's Verdi union criticises the new employment model and is considering steps against it. The temporary staff will earn less than their Lufthansa colleagues and will have a more uncertain job future, said a spokesman for the union.
While the airline reviews its own cabin crew members' pay after two years, enabling employees to move to a higher salary band, the agency workers will have "no chance for financial advancement", he added.
When it revealed its route and fleet growth concept for Berlin in November, Lufthansa said it would hire cabin crew via an "external company" to ensure "sustained competitiveness" in the city, where it faces competition mainly from budget carriers EasyJet, Ryanair and Air Berlin.
The airline plans to establish a dedicated crew base for pilots and flight attendants in Berlin for a local Airbus A320 family fleet, which will only be employed for direct flights from the city to domestic and European destinations. The crews will return to their home base at the end of their shifts and not have layovers in other locations.
The unified fleet and "cost advantages in the management of the aircraft" will reduce unit costs by around a third over its other European fleet, according to Lufthansa.
AviationPower will be responsible for training the new cabin crew members, which will be done in co-operation with the airline.
The employment model is currently planned only for Berlin, but could also be evaluated for its bases in Dusseldorf and Hamburg, according to the Lufthansa spokesman.
It would not be suitable for the hubs in Frankfurt and Munich, where the airline operates with its own staff, he added.
A range of Lufthansa flights in Cologne, Hanover and Stuttgart are currently being transferred to the airline's low-cost subsidiary Germanwings.