Air Berlin hits turbulence, cancels 100 flights over sick pilots

13th Sep, 2017 | Tourism Mail Crew

BERLIN: Air Berlin passengers faced fresh chaos on Tuesday after the beleaguered German airline cancelled 100 flights due to a surge in the number of pilots reporting sick.

The reason for the cancellations is "an extraordinary number of sick reports in the cockpit," said a spokesman for Germany's second-biggest airline, which last month filed for insolvency.

Air Berlin has asked passengers to check the status of their flight on the airline's website prior to their arrival at the airport after it said it was cancelling 100 of its scheduled 750 flights for Tuesday.

About 200 of the 1,500 pilots due to fly on Tuesday had called in sick, the airline said.

"Today is a day that the existence of Air Berlin is threatened," wrote Air Berlin chief operations officer Oliver Iffert in an internal memo seen by dpa.

In another internal memo seen by dpa, the company's board said that 149 captains and first officers had already called in sick for Wednesday.

A spokesman for the airline confirmed that cancellations are expected Wednesday.

Calling it a "pilot revolt," the daily Bild reported that the reason for the jump in the number of pilots claiming to be sick was a dispute over their possible transition from the insolvent airline to a potential new buyer.

However, the pilots' union, Vereinigung Cockpit, denied the report, saying: "At no point did the VC call for (pilots) to report ill."

Air Berlin said it would offer affected passengers the "best alternative travel" options.

The airline announced on Monday that it had slashed a series of international flights as a result of the need to reduce its long-haul operations as part of insolvency proceedings.

This included flights to the Caribbean from the western German city of Dusseldorf to September 24.

The German government was forced last month to provide the airline with a bridging loan of 150 million euros (180 million dollars) to help it to continue operating.

Potential buyers have until September 15 to lodge offers for the struggling carrier, with Germany's biggest airline Lufthansa among bidders seeking to acquire parts of Air Berlin.

German businessman Hans Rudolf Wohrl this week also unveiled a 500-million-euro bid for Air Berlin, which ran up a loss last year of about 782 million euros and has debts totalling nearly 1.2 billion euros.

Air Berlin has operated at a loss every year since 2008, except for 2012, when it sold off its frequent flyer programme.

In the meantime, budget airline Ryanair stepped up its campaign on Tuesday to take on Lufthansa in its home base of Frankfurt with the Irish carrier announcing 34 new flights from Germany's biggest airport from the middle of next year.