Lufthansa pilots deal resolves thorny scope clause issue

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Lufthansa has resolved a long-running source of friction regarding the size of its regional fleet, as part of the recent agreement with its pilots union.

The scope clause which previously centred on a 70-seat maximum size for regional types has been increased to include 95-seat aircraft.

Lufthansa deputy chairman Christoph Franz, detailing the new arrangement to investors yesterday, described the new arrangement as a "positive development".

He says that a dynamic amendment to the scope clause will also "safeguard the size of the regional segment in future".

"We will have automatically the possibility to run more than one-fifth of the total Lufthansa fleet, in future, in that segment," he says, adding that it will also cover larger-sized regional aircraft.

Lufthansa's retaining of a defining 70-seat limit for its regional operations meant that the carrier faced flexibility problems as it overhauled the fleet with larger Bombardier CRJ900s and Embraer 190s.

"We feel this [new clause] is taking away a lot of the potential for dispute," says Franz. "We've had this kind of discussion for a long time, because the 70-seat limit of the past did not cope with the industry development of going into ever-larger sizes of aircraft."

He says that 70 seats was previously considered large for a regional aircraft, and the business "could not imagine" that the sector would expand to include aircraft of 90 seats and more.

Franz adds that Lufthansa's most important concession to the pilots was to protect the amount of "neighbourhood" flying performed by the German carrier as opposed to its group airlines.

Lufthansa Group chief financial officer Stephan Gemkow says the level is 55% for group airlines and 45% for Lufthansa.

He adds that the agreement also blocks group carriers from initiating traffic from third countries. UK operation BMI, for example, would not be allowed to start Polish-German services.

Franz says: "We'll have enough flexibility to develop, on a daily operational basis, neighbourhood traffic without being limited."