Air Berlin axes 100 flights as pilots call in sick

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Pilot action criticised by both union and management
Air Berlin cancelled more than 100 flights yesterday when pilots called in sick in unusually high numbers. The insolvent carrier’s CEO protested that the pilots were “playing with fire”.
Air Berlin filed for insolvency a month ago after minority shareholder Etihad Airways withdrew financial support. It is currently seeking buyers for its assets, who have a deadline of this Friday to submit offers.
Pilot union Vereinigung Cockpit (VC) said it had noticed a large number of pilot sickness reports, but added it had not called for them to stage a ‘sick out’.
“The union is convinced that a social plan negotiation through a regular transition of staff is the only way to get as large a number of jobs as possible,” it said.
“Therefore, VC has pointed out to all cockpit staff represented by it that they have to fulfil their obligations under the employment contract, provided there is no acute reason for an illness.”
The airline was “forced to cancel more than 100 flights today from our planned 750 flights,” CEO Thomas Winkelmann confirmed. “The reason for this is that 200 of our 1,500 pilots called in sick on short notice during the crew briefing and just shortly before they arrived at the aircraft.”
This is “playing with fire,” he added. “Today costs us several million euros. We are currently conducting the final talks with potential investors. A stable operation is the imperative prerequisite for the success of these negotiations. This is the only way to secure as many jobs as possible.”
General contractor Frank Kebekus said: “Today’s events severely endanger the entire insolvency proceedings in self-administration. If the situation does not change in the short term, we will suspend our operations including all restoration efforts.”
The cancellations affected more than 8,000 passengers booked on European and long-haul flights.