Published: Wed, September 13, 2017
Economy | By Guillermo Lane

Air Berlin cancels more than 70 flights due to pilots' "sick-out"

Air Berlin cancels more than 70 flights due to pilots'

Bankrupt German airline Air Berlin has canceled dozens of flights, citing an "unusually high" number of pilots calling in sick.

Domestic and worldwide flights have been affected, stranding passengers.

The move has also hit Lufthansa subsidiary Eurowings, which said it had been told by Air Berlin at short notice some of the flights the latter carrier runs for it could not be staffed. "Air Berlin has informed us on short notice that numerous flights operated by Air Berlin. can not be staffed", says Eurowings.

"We are now conducting final talks with potential investors".

Air Berlin filed for insolvency in mid-August, after its main shareholder Gulf carrier Etihad pulled the plug on its cash lifeline.

The financial support given by the German Government will keep Air Berlin flying for 90 days.

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Chief executive Thomas Winkelmann said the pilots in question were "playing with fire". Stable operations are a prerequisite for the success of these negotiations.

An estimated one-sixth of the airline's 1,500 pilots called in sick on Tuesday, which is likely to represent one-third to one-half of the total rostered to work.

"That's the only way we can secure as many jobs as possible", he added.

German service-sector union Verdi argues that it is "not at all surprising" that pilots have called in sick, given Air Berlin's current situation. Germany's government has backed a €150 million ($179 million) bridging loan, and talks with potential investors are under way.

Verdi board member Christine Behle said: "All the conversations surrounding insolvent Air Berlin are always about its economic interests, never about the jobs of its more than 8,000 employees".

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