Pi­lot walk­out could down Air Ber­lin, boss warns

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Business - By Bradley Ger­rard

A WILD­CAT walk­out by Air Ber­lin pi­lots could “threaten the ex­is­tence” of the un­der-fire car­rier, its chief ex­ec­u­tive has said.

Thomas Winkel­mann claimed the move by nearly 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”.

The com­pany had to can­cel more than 110 flights out of a planned 750 yes­ter­day be­cause of the walk­out. This dis­rupted some 12,000 pas­sen­gers, the com­pany said. This has the po­ten­tial to un­set­tle any po­ten­tial res­cuers for Air Ber­lin, which filed for ad­min­is­tra­tion last month when it was given a €150m (£135m) loan by the Ger­man gov­ern­ment. The dead­line for bids is this Fri­day with a de­ci­sion ex­pected to be made within a week.

“We are cur­rently con­duct­ing fi­nal talks with po­ten­tial in­vestors. It is es­sen­tial that op­er­a­tions be sta­ble in or­der for these ne­go­ti­a­tions to go well. That is the only way to se­cure as many jobs as pos­si­ble,” Mr Winkel­mann said. Frank Ke­bekus, the com­pany’s chief rep­re­sen­ta­tive, said the events “se­ri­ously en­dan­ger the en­tire in­sol­vency pro­ceed­ings un­der self-ad­min­is­tra­tion” and that if the sit­u­a­tion did not change quickly, “we will have to cease op­er­a­tions and thus any re­struc­tur­ing ef­forts”.

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.

“Nev­er­the­less, Eurow­ings is able to op­er­ate the ma­jor­ity of its flight pro­gramme of 650 daily Eurow­ings flights as sched­uled,” a spokesman said.

“Be­sides, long-haul flights are not af­fected as Air Ber­lin is not op­er­at­ing any Air­bus A330 on be­half of Eurow­ings.”

Shares in the com­pany dropped roughly 3.5pc on the back of the an­nounce­ment to 33 cents. Air Ber­lin has been dogged by de­lays and can­cel­la­tions, which have re­sulted in it pay­ing mil­lions of euros in com­pen­sa­tion to pas­sen­gers. This in turn has hit pas­sen­ger num­bers, which fell by 24pc yearon-year in July from 3.22m to 2.44m.

The com­pany has been un­der in­tense pres­sure fol­low­ing the move by its largest share­holder Eti­had, which has a 29.2pc stake, to refuse to plough more cash into the ail­ing busi­ness.

The Gulf-based com­pany said last month the de­cline of Air Ber­lin was “ex­tremely dis­ap­point­ing”, es­pe­cially as it had pro­vided ex­ten­sive sup­port to the Ger­man car­rier over the past six years, no­tably with a €250m cash in­jec­tion in April this year.

Thomas Winkel­mann, the boss of Air Ber­lin, said a pi­lot strike could threaten the car­rier’s ex­is­tence

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