But, in light of the "massive strike action," he said the airport had no alternative but to close part of its operations because it did not have the security personnel to process passengers whose flights originated from the airport. The only busier European airport is London's Heathrow.
Payne said only 74 of the airport's 1,300 flights have been canceled, though many were flying only partially filled because of the decision.
Ver.di union, which represents some 5,000 private security workers at the airport, said they went on strike at 2 a.m. local time and were to stay off the job until 11 p.m. in a warning strike to press their demands for an hourly wage of 16 euros ($22). Employers are offering between 10 to 13 euros per hour.
Short-term strikes are a common practice in Germany for unions to put pressure on employers. The two sides are next scheduled to negotiate on March 5.
Lufthansa urged authorities to prevent such strikes in future, warning that it may not be able to guarantee regular operations in Germany if the strategy becomes the norm among the many unions involved in the air travel business.