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Business

Air Berlin pilots threaten strike during busy summer season

Pilots at Germany's second-largest airline, Air Berlin, are threatening to walk off the job during August if they don't come to an agreement with management over work conditions.

Air Berlin plane

Air Berlin pilots want better conditions, not more pay

Travelers enjoying end-of-summer holidays could find themselves trapped in transit hell if pilots at Air Berlin follow through with their threats and walk off the job in August over what they consider unfair working conditions.

On Monday, the union representing the pilots, Cockpit, announced that 99 percent of Air Berlin pilots and 97 percent of pilots at its subsidiary LTU voted in favor of strike action if no acceptable agreement with airline management was reached.

If there are no further improvements within the coming days, strikes "will be unavoidable in August," the union said in a statement. A final decision could come this week.

Air Berlin pilots and management have been haggling for months over issues such as work hours, rest times and on-call requirements, but have been unable to come to an agreement. Salary levels are not part of the current negotiations.

Pilots complain about daily changes to work schedules and the airline's failure to assign a third pilot to long-haul flights to the US, the Middle East and South Africa – a practice that is standard at other German airlines, according to Cockpit.

Optimism

However, Air Berlin remains hopeful a timely agreement can be reached. “We have gotten closer on many points,” airline spokesman Christoph Noack said.

A crowded airport terminal

Summer holidays could become chaotic if pilots strike in August

In March Cockpit called off a planned strike because Air Berlin had offered more rest and vacation days, but the two sides have failed to make progress on other issues. Noack said there were still other options on the table.

An August strike could hit Air Berlin just as it's flying high. The company reported earlier this month that the number of passengers it transported in July rose to 3.7 million - that's 6.4 percent more than in the same period last year.

The company agreed to join the Oneworld alliance last month, whose members include American Airlines, Qantas, Cathay Pacific., Japan Airlines and Lan Chile. It is the first discount airline to join one of the three main global groupings.

Frankfurt airport, Germany's busiest, has encouraged the airline to refocus its operations in Frankfurt, in order to provide better connections with its Oneworld partners. All of them operate services to Frankfurt, the country's main financial center, but no direct flights to Air Berlin's current base in the German capital.

Author: Kyle James (dpa/apn/Reuters)
Editor: Sam Edmonds

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