Pilots call in sick

Air Berlin forced to cancel dozens of flights

Flugzeuge der Fluggesellschaft Air Berlin.

Hard times for Air Berlin passengers: Many flights have been cancelled at the insolvent airline.

Berlin/Bonn. Pilots of the insolvent airlines have been calling in sick in massive numbers. At Cologne/Bonn Airport on Tuesday, 45 flights had to be cancelled and this is just one location. More cancellations are in store for Wednesday.

The crisis at Air Berlin is escalating with the airlines having had to cancel numerous flights on Tuesday.  A spokesman for the airline said that they had received notices from “an exceptionally large number of pilots who called in sick.”  Around 200 pilots did not report for work on Tuesday. Thousands of passengers were affected.

At Düsseldorf Airport, 100 flights had to be cancelled - practically all the long-haul flights including destinations of Miami, New York, Fort Meyers and Boston. 45 flights were cancelled at Cologne/Bonn Airport, 21 of these were Air Berlin routes and 24 were Eurowings flights.  Eurowings is also affected because they are currently leasing aircraft and flight crews from Air Berlin.  On Wednesday morning, there are more cancellations as more pilots have called in sick.  Already 32 flights have been cancelled as of early morning. 

„What is happening is endangering the insolvency proceedings“

The airlines responded with some sharp words.  “What we see in a part of the workforce is that they are playing with fire,” said Thomas Winkelmann, Chairman of the Board of Air Berlin. Frank Kebekus, who is in charge of the insolvency proceedings said that if the situation did not change in the short term, they would have to stop with operations and with that, any chances for restoration of the business would be jeopardized.  In a letter to employees, he added that a “full liquidation of Air Berlin” loomed and flights would be left to competitors such as Ryanair.  

Pilots are calling in sick because of discussions about which conditions would apply to them and the cabin crews with new ownership.  The union representing the pilots wants an interim contract that would protect the older, better earning employees.  A captain at LTU, as a part of Air Berlin earns an estimated 227,000 euros per year according to branch estimates, while at Eurowings it is 173,000 euros per year. 

The “sick-outs” are costing up to five million dollars

An internal estimate at Air Berlin assumes a loss of around four to five million dollars as a result of the action on Tuesday.  Kebekus said this was “pure poison” for the airline company. The image was suffering terrible damage, making it even more difficult to get a good offer before Friday which is the deadline for interested bidders.

The airline said it regretted the inconvenience for its passengers and asked them to please check the status of their flight before heading to the airport: www.airberlin.com/airinfo  The “best possible alternative” would be offered to travelers whose flight was canceled.  Cologne/Bonn warned of further disruptions in the flight schedule. Orig. text: (Reinhard Kowalewsky, Birgit Marschall) Translation: ckloep