200 pilots 'call in sick', forcing airline to scrap flights

200 pilots 'call in sick', forcing airline to scrap flights

TUIfly was also forced to cancel flights previous year after many pilots called in sick, with their union saying staff were concerned that merger talks, since failed, could lead to job and pay cuts.

On Tuesday, about 200 of the 1,500 pilots due to fly that day had called in sick, the airline said.

German Labour Minister Andrea Nahles said on Wednesday it is "completely unacceptable" for pilots at Air Berlin (AB1.DE) to put the airline's fate at risk by calling in sick in unusually high numbers.

Both domestic and global flights were affected, including links between Berlin and Los Angeles or Dubai.

The move has also hit Lufthansa subsidiary Eurowings, which said it had been told by Air Berlin at short notice some of the flights the latter carrier runs for it could not be staffed.

It prompted the airline to accuse them of sabotaging rescue talks with potential investors.

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An industry source said Air Berlin could lose 4 million to 5 million euros a day because of the cancellations.

Germany's giant services sector union Verdi expressed solidarity with the absent pilots and warned that more workers could call in sick. "This is the only way we can protect as many jobs as possible".

The German government has argued that competition rules prevent any single airline taking over Air Berlin, the country's second-largest carrier after Lufthansa. Verdi is likewise urging staff members to go to work "in order not to jeopardise jobs", but notes: "It can not be ruled out that this will occur with other employees too".

Air Berlin made a loss of €782m (£703m) in 2016. The carrier had previously said it would end long-haul flights from Berlin and reduce its intercontinental network from Dusseldorf.

The situation came to a head when the airline was forced to declare insolvency last month, which deepened the rift between management and staff.

The mass "sick-out" comes ahead of a Friday deadline for potential investors to submit bids for Air Berlin assets.

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