The pilots are actually paid by Luftfahrtgesellschaft Walter (LGW), a company that contracts with Air Berlin, but they all fly exclusively for the carrier and are paid around €1,635 per month.
At first glance that may not seem like a starvation salary, the magazine wrote, but the co-pilots are required to pay back €75,000 in training costs. This amounts to about half of their monthly pay, leaving the co-pilots with a salary that is about the minimum one needs to survive, the magazine wrote.
“It is often difficult to communicate that our salary does not reflect our working conditions," one affected pilot said. For many being a pilot is considered a dream job, but dream salaries are only paid by a few airlines, Spiegel wrote.
“No pilot with experience would ever fly for LGW,” a pilot told the magazine. The company is seen as a place to start and exit as soon as you get experience.
Lufthansa is the best paying German airline, the magazine wrote, offering around €60,000 to first year pilots. However Lufthansa is also outsourcing its pilots to companies that pay considerably less.
Air Berlin co-pilots are starting to fight back and are now threatening to not support the airline’s savings program.
Passengers are generally unaware of the turmoil in the cockpit. Except for a small notice when boarding that the aircraft is operated by LGW there is no indication during an Air Berlin flight that perhaps there is a co-pilot in the cockpit living just above the poverty level.