Calling it a "pilot revolt", the daily Bild reported that the reason for the jump in the number of pilots claiming to be sick was a dispute over their possible transition from the insolvent airline to a potential new buyer. Air Berlin employs approximately 1,500 pilots.
Air Berlin chief executive Thomas Winkelmann suggests that pilots who have absented themselves are "playing with fire".
"Passengers holding tickets for cancelled flights will be offered other travel options", the website states. Some short-haul flights at Lufthansa's budget airline Eurowings were also hit because it leases 33 planes with crews from Air Berlin.
AXEL SCHMIDT REUTERS Air Berlin had to cancel flights at Tegel airport in Berlin
"This day is costing us several million euros", Winkelmann said in a statement. Stable operations are a prerequisite for the success of these negotiations.
In mid-August, Air Berlin, the second largest German airline, filed for bankruptcy following the refusal of the Etihad Airways, which holds a 29.2-percent stake in the airline, to continue providing it with financial support.
With the deadline drawing close for investors to submit bids for Air Berlin, operations are facing increasing disruption. At least 32 were canceled Wednesday, though Air Berlin said more pilots were returning.
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Verdi board member Christine Behle said: "All the conversations surrounding insolvent Air Berlin are always about its economic interests, never about the jobs of its more than 8,000 employees".
An empty Air Berlin counter at Tegel airport in Berlin.
The German government has agreed to provide a bridging loan of 150m euros to keep the airline flying for three months during the busy summer season.
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Germany's giant services sector union Verdi on Tuesday expressed solidarity with the absent pilots and warned that more workers could call in sick.
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