200 pilots 'call in sick', forcing airline to scrap flights

Air Berlin has accused the absent pilots of "threatening the existence" of the airline, warning that the turmoil could scare off investors.

"I think Air Berlin is in a decidedly hard situation at the moment and the pilots, with their behaviour, are putting at risk a reasonable handover or sale".

Air Berlin chief executive Thomas Winkelmann suggests that pilots who have absented themselves are "playing with fire".

In a similar incident a year ago, German leisure airline TUIfly was forced to cancel flights after cockpit and cabin crew called in sick. "For this reason a number of flights will have to be cancelled today (Tuesday)", the company said in a statement on its website, advising those due to travel on an Air Berlin flight to call a customer service number before arriving at the airport.

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

"A stable operation is an essential precondition for successful negotiations, " Winkelmann said.

"We are now in final discussions with investors" he said, warning that cancellations were costing the already bankrupt firm "millions of euros". Germany's government has backed a €150 million ($179 million) bridging loan, and talks with potential investors are under way.

The airline had for years struggled for survival, and booked losses amounting to 1.2 billion euros (USD1.4 billion) over the past two years.

Air Berlin has announced it will end long-haul flying, which many crew regard as the best option - it offers higher earnings and, for some, a better lifestyle.

"The fear and anger among Air Berlin staff is escalating because the future of whole families are at stake".

  • Joey Payne