How do you go on strike without actually going on strike? Well, nearly 200 pilots working for the insolvent German low-cost carrier, airberlin have the answer. You go on a mass ‘sick-in’. And that’s exactly what happened today when airberlin flight crew called in sick for work today.
Things are spiralling out of control fairly rapidly at the beleaguered airline as over 100 flights were cancelled in the wake of the sick-in. Oliver Iffert, airberlin’s chief operations officers said the pilot’s behaviour “threatens the existence of airberlin” – perhaps failing to realise that boat has already sailed.
airberlin was forced into insolvency last month when major backer, Etihad Airways withdrew funding for the loss making airline. The airline was given a bridging loan of €150 million by the German government and the country’s largest airline, Lufthansa to keep airberlin flying over the summer months.
Some potential investors, including Ryanair, accuse Lufthansa of a stitch-up, claiming parts of airberlin will be cherry picked to retain Lufthansa’s grip on the German market. But for the time being at least, airberlin is officially looking for potential investors to take over its operations (and save as many jobs as possible).
Lufthansa and its subsidiary, Eurowings have been seen as the front runners but even their operations were hit by the sick-in. Eurowings has wet leased 33 airberlin aircraft and faced having to deal with no-show pilots for their flights as well.
“We must return to stable operations. That is crucial in order to bring talks with investors to a successful conclusion,” Iffert commented. Approximately 1,500 pilots are currently employed by airberlin – the unofficial action by 200 of that number cancelled 100 out of 750 scheduled departures today.
airberlin’s chief executive, Thomas Winkelmann said the sick-in has cost the airline several million Euros while Frank Kebekus, the company’s chief representative said: “Today’s events seriously endanger the entire insolvency proceedings.” He claimed that if the action were to continue then the company would have to stop operating.
Investors have until Friday to make an offer for airberlin.