Germany's air traffic authority has called for arbitration in a bitter pay dispute with its air traffic controllers, avoiding at the last minute a strike that would have disrupted hundreds of flights across Europe.
The GdF union representing Germany's air traffic controllers had planned to stage a six-hour walkout between 6am and noon local time.
On Monday two Frankfurt labour courts successively ruled that the strike could go forward, rejecting court injunctions sought by the air traffic authority, news agency dapd reported.
Faced with no other choice to avoid the strike during August's busy tourist travel season, the DFS national air traffic authority called for arbitration, which bans strikes while the mediation efforts of an independent arbiter take place over the coming weeks.
"Through its call for an arbitration the DFS averts the air traffic controllers' strike which would have caused huge inconvenience and financial losses for travellers and airlines," Jens Bergmann, the DFS agency's managing director, said in a statement.
The GdF union has been seeking a one-year wage deal with a 6.5% pay increase and changes to the organisational structure. It has rejected the air traffic authority's offer of a lower raise over a longer period.
A similar walkout was thwarted last week, after the national air traffic authority won a court injunction against it.
The union represents nearly 6,000 employees of the air traffic authority. A strike would have caused massive disruption by effectively shutting down Europe's busiest patch of sky.