Air Berlin furious as 'ill pilots' force flight cancellations

Air Berlin Cancels More Long-haul Routes

Pilot action forces Air Berlin cancellations

Last month, Air Berlin, the Germany's second-largest airline filed for bankruptcy protection shortly after its principal shareholder Etihad Airways announced the withdrawal of funding for the carrier.

Thomas Winkelmann claimed the move by almost 200 pilots to call in sick at short notice was "the equivalent to playing with fire" and would cost the troubled airline "several million euros".

It is understood about six companies are in the race to bid for assets belonging to Air Berlin by the deadline this week, including Thomas Cook's Condor and low-priced players such as easyJet. Stable operations are a prerequisite for the success of these negotiations.

The ailing carrier was forced to cancel more than 100 flights, including transatlantic connections, as a result of the sick notices, causing chaos at several German airports.

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Reports in the German media have said that the airline is in a dispute with its pilots about the transfer of staff to a new owner.

"That's the only way we can secure as many jobs as possible", he added.

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

Air Berlin said once it had received the offers from potential investors on Friday, it hoped to reach a decision by September 21.

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Germany's giant services sector union Verdi expressed solidarity with the absent pilots and warned that more workers could call in sick.

Board member Christine Behle states: "All talks about insolvent Air Berlin revolve around economical interests, but not the jobs of more than 8,000 employees".

Air Berlin continues to operate due to a 150 million euro ($180 milliom) credit loan from the German government.

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