Pilot walkout could down Air Berlin, boss warns
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