110 Air Berlin flights canceled as pilots call in sick en masse
The bankrupt German carrier Air Berlin has canceled more than 110 flights on September 12. A representative of the airline confirmed that the company is “currently seeing an exceptionally high number of sickness reports of pilots”. The exact number was not specified to AeroTime but the company had previously stated to Deutsche Welle that around 200 of the 1500 pilots employed by the carrier had called in sick for the day.
With around 110 flights canceled, passengers are being requested to check whether their flight was affected or not on the airline’s website. So far, there is information about Berlin, Dusseldorf, Cologne, and Hamburg being among the cities affected by the cancellations.
“Passengers holding tickets for canceled flights will be offered other travel options,” an Air Berlin spokesperson answered AeroTime’s inquiry. “Affected passengers are kindly asked not to come to the airport and to call the Air Berlin Service Center.”
Speculations about this incident being a form of protest have surfaced in Bild, Germany’s top tabloid newspaper. The situation does, in fact, remind of similar cancellations affecting TUIfly flights a year earlier. Back then, pilots’ calling in sick was the quoted reason of mass absence as well.
According to the official statement published on the website of Vereinigung Cockpit, the professional union representing German pilots, the union did not receive any information regarding pilots that had fallen ill.
“VC points out to all the flight crew it represents that they must fulfill their obligations under the employment contract, provided there is acute illness,” the official statement says.
Vereinigung Cockpit was not available for immediate comment.
Marius Stonkus, CEO of Skycop.com – a company fighting for passengers’ rights to a compensation – told AeroTime that crew sickness might not necessarily fall under the definition of force majeure.
“That’s a very unpleasant situation for all the passengers concerned,” Marius Stonkus told AeroTime. “I’m pretty sure there are going to appear some losses for passengers due to ruined plans. And to cover up those they can claim for compensation up to 600 EUR per passenger. It won’t be easy because most certainly airline will reject claims by saying crew sickness falls under “extraordinary circumstances” list”.
The wave of cancellations is unrelated to the simultaneous cancellations of another 100 or so Ryanair flights to Southern Europe from the Irish carrier’s main UK base – Stansted. Delays and cancellations, in this case, have been caused by an air traffic controllers’ strike in France.