Air Berlin cancels flights as pilots go on sick leave

Air Berlin pilots call in sick and it has pushed the airline to cancel more than 100 flights

Air Berlin pilots call in sick and it has pushed the airline to cancel more than 100 flights

The airline, which filed for insolvency last month and is only still operating because of a German government bridging loan, said Tuesday's apparent strike threatened its existence and hurt its chances of saving jobs.

Shortly after the insolvency announcement bidders lined up to acquire Air Berlin's assets with major European airline Lufthansa the most likely. Stable operations are a prerequisite for the success of these negotiations.

Eurowings now leases 38 aircraft from Air Berlin - and because of this, it too has had to cancel flights because of the pilots' walkout.

Spiegel Online said about 250 pilots called in sick on Tuesday morning.

Vereinigung Cockpit, a collective bargaining group for German pilots and flight engineers, has expressed concern that the airline is planning to offload its long-haul flights branch, which pays staff higher wages. In its report, Bild said that pilots may have resorted to the tactic of sickness-related absence because of job fears following a takeover of the insolvent airline by a new owner.

The airline had for years struggled for survival, and booked losses amounting to 1.2 billion euros ($1.4 billion) over the past two years.

Air Berlin pilots calling in sick makes airline cancel more than 100 flights
A board shows canceled Air Berlin flights at Tegel airport in Berlin Germany Reuters

Air Berlin is the country's second largest airline and employs around 8,600 people.

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

The firm has given potential buyers until September 15 to make offers.

Lufthansa - which already leases 38 of Air Berlin's 140 planes - could buy up to 70 aircraft with as many as 3,000 crew for Eurowings, German media had reported.

Other interested airlines cited in media reports include package holiday firm TUI, British low-priced carrier EasyJet, Thomas Cook subsidiary Condor, as well as Bavarian entrepreneur Hans Rudolf Woehrl. A formal decision on a sale of Air Berlin could be reached as early as September 21.

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