Passengers to bear the brunt as government introduces flight ticket tax

Airlines have vowed to pass extra costs on to customers after the government’s announcement to set up a tax on tickets.The federal coalition of Social Democrats (SPÖ) and People’s Party (ÖVP) announced on the weekend it will charge every ticket for a flight from Austria to another European country with eight Euros from next year. The SPÖ-ÖVP coalition also said tickets for long-haul flight tickets will be made 40 Euros more expensive.The government explained it hoped to rake in around 60 million Euros a year from 2011 with the new levy. The flight ticket tax is one of its measures to slash the budget deficit from 3.9 per cent of the gross domestic product to three per cent or less in 2013.Now a spokeswoman for Austrian Airlines (AUA) and FlyNiki boss Niki Lauda stressed that the extra costs brought about by the new tax would be seen as a burden by customers.The AUA official pointed out that the Netherlands ditched a flight ticket tax after just a few months some years ago, while Lauda said the levy was “mad”. He expressed concerns about the holiday plans of people on low incomes. “We have to pass on these additional costs, of course,” the three-time Formula One champion said today (Mon).FlyNiki, which had 2.6 million passengers last year, is Austria’s biggest airline after German firm Lufthansa acquired a major stake in AUA last year. AUA served 1.1 million customers last month, 11.2 per cent more than in September 2009.Airline officials said they doubted the levy would tempt people to switch to more environmentally ways of travelling like railways. They also warned Austria would suffer as destination and as international gateway as foreign airlines may touch down at airports across the border instead.The airports of Bratislava, Slovakia, and Ljubljana, Slovenia, are tipped to benefit from the tax as it could mean that the number of Austrians booking low budget carriers departing there increases more than ever before.Social Democratic (SPÖ) Traffic Minister Doris Bures rejected calls for a taxation of flight tickets in July.Bures said at that time Austria would not follow the example of the German government which announced plans to charge extra on tickets from next year to force aviation companies into doing their bit to help restore the state budget.The German federal coalition of the Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU) and the Free Democratic Party (FDP) wants to demand 13 Euros for every short-destination ticket and twice the amount for long-haul connection tickets from next year.Lauda called the planned German levy the “biggest possible competition distortion”.Asked whether Austria had similar plans, Bures said she was in favour of a “European regulation” to avoid distortions of competition.Passenger numbers at Vienna International Airport (VIA), Austria’s biggest airport and one of the most important hubs of air traffic in Central Europe, may be affected most by the upcoming Austrian flight ticket taxation. VIA registered 18.1 passengers in 2009, down by 8.3 per cent year on year.