Insolvent Air Berlin scraps flights over 'ill' pilots

Air Berlin, Germany's second largest carrier, has been forced to suspend over a hundreds flights after a large portion of its pilots failed to report for duty. Air Berlin has been dogged by delays and cancellations, which have resulted in it paying millions of euros in compensation to passengers.

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

Domestic and worldwide flights have been affected, stranding passengers.

Air Berlin had to cancel flights at Tegel airport in Berlin
AXEL SCHMIDT REUTERS Air Berlin had to cancel flights at Tegel airport in Berlin

The company's website reveals canceled flights from several German airports including Berlin Tegel, Duesseldorf, Hamburg, and Cologne.

Chief executive Thomas Winkelmann said the pilots in question were "playing with fire".

Air Berlin received a transitional loan of €150 million from the German government.

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"We are now conducting final talks with potential investors. That is the only way to secure as many jobs as possible", Mr Winkelmann said.

Air Berlin declared bankruptcy last month following years of losses and the decision of its biggest shareholder, Gulf airline Etihad, to cease payments.

German flagship carrier 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.

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"We are in the middle of final negotiations with potential investors".

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.

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  • Kelly Blake