Air Berlin cancels flights as pilots call in sick

Air Berlin filed for bankruptcy protection last month after its biggest shareholder withdrew funding after years of losses

Insolvent Air Berlin cancelled about 100 flights on Tuesday after pilots called in sick in unusually high numbers, potentially hampering an attempt to find investors to rescue Germany's second-largest airline.

The deadline for offers for the airline is Friday, with the creditors' committee hoping to make a decision on September 21.

Lufthansa (Xetra: LHAB.DE - news) 's low-priced subsidiary Eurowings, which is renting aircraft as well as pilot and crew from Air Berlin, said it had also been forced to cancel some flights.

Representatives from pilots' union Vereinigung Cockpit were not immediately available for comment.

Etihad held 29.2 percent of Air Berlin and has reportedly withdrawn financial support following years of losses.

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

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"I think Air Berlin is in a decidedly hard situation at the moment and the pilots, with their behaviour, are putting at risk a reasonable handover or sale".

"We are now in final discussions with investors" he said, warning that cancellations were costing the already bankrupt firm "millions of euros". But a loan from the German government is keeping the carrier afloat while attempts are made to sell off parts of the airline.

Board member Christine Behle states: "All talks about insolvent Air Berlin revolve around economical interests, but not the jobs of more than 8,000 employees".

The beleaguered airline says it is "currently seeing an exceptional high number of sickness reports of their pilots", which has led to dozens of cancellations.

One source has told Reuters that Lufthansa is interested in as many as 90 of Air Berlin's planes.

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