Insolvent Air Berlin scraps flights over 'ill' pilots

Air Berlin sees flight operations stabilizing on Thursday staff memo

Troubled German airline Air Berlin, which entered preliminary insolvency proceedings last month, has cancelled more flights as it reduces its long-haul fleet. The previous owner Etihad announced Air Berlin's insolvency in August, prompting uncertainty over its future and the search for a buyer.

The company had to cancel more than 110 flights out of a planned 750 on Tuesday because of the walkout.

As Air Berlin teeters on the brink of collapse, thousands of its passengers have had their travel plans wrecked by a "sick-out" involving flight crew.

Chief executive Thomas Winkelmann said employees were "playing with fire" with their apparent protest action, which comes ahead of a Friday deadline for interested bidders to submit offers to take over parts of Germany's second-largest airline.

Mr Winkelmann said: "This day is costing us several million euros".

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"We are now conducting final talks with potential investors". Stable operations are a prerequisite for the success of these negotiations. "This is the only way we can protect as many jobs as possible".

In the meantime, the airline has been kept aloft by a hastily-agreed 150-million-euro loan from the German government.

However, union Vereinigung Cockpit said in a separate statement it was surprised by the absences and that it had not called on its members to call in sick.

"Many" of these declarations were made at short notice, during the pilots' pre-flight crew briefings or as they made their way to the aircraft, adds Air Berlin, noting that the ensuing disruption is "life threatening" for the German carrier.

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