LUFTHANSA'S planes were grounded yesterday as Germany's largest airline cancelled nearly all of its flights because of a second strike in a month over workers' pay.
Flights to and from Ireland were among 1,700 that were cancelled, leaving only about 30 running, after all-day strike action was announced at Germany's biggest airports, including Frankfurt, Munich and Hamburg.
Unlike other strikes over the past couple of years, Lufthansa even said it was cancelling the majority of its long-haul flights.
"That's 150,000 passengers we are unable to carry today," Lufthansa personnel executive Stefan Lauer said, standing in front of a departure board at Frankfurt showing a swath of cancelled flights.
Germany's airports and railways have been hit with repeated strike action over the past two years, from pilots to tower staff, airfield workers, security staff and train drivers.
The emergence of smaller trade unions and years of pay restraint have resulted in tense negotiations and more strikes.
"We want to call on the union to end this madness. Germany's transport sector is becoming the laughing stock of Europe," Mr Lauer said.
Frankfurt airport, Europe's third largest, was largely calm and free of long queues yesterday morning, in contrast to last month's five-hour strike.
The high number of cancellations yesterday meant many passengers had either stayed home or had not been able to fly to the airport, which mostly serves transfer passengers.
Horst Hoffart (45) was one of the lucky few whose flight was still taking off. "There have been too many strikes recently," he said.
Guenter Grabherr, a 54-year-old Austrian travelling with his wife to Tobago on rival airline Condor, said they had expected a German company like Lufthansa to be more reliable.
"It's terrible for the passengers who just want to get away," he said.