Ticket tax ‘may slash FlyNiki turnover by €10mn’

FlyNiki CEO Niki Lauda has claimed the new ticket levy could decrease his firm’s annual turnover by 10 million Euros.The businessman, who founded airline FlyNiki in 2003, said today (Tues): “I expected FlyNiki to have four million passengers this year. The tax might reduce our customer number by 100,000. This would mean 10 million Euros less turnover.”FlyNiki, which has been cooperating with Germany’s biggest low cost carrier Air Berlin, served 2.6 million customers in 2009.Lauda said the Austrian government’s plan to charge every ticket for a flight from Austria to another European country with eight Euros and outside the continent with 40 Euros from next year was “incredibly unfair and an anti-social madness”.The three-time Formula One champion also expressed doubts that the levy will mean an extra 60 million Euros of revenue annually.”It will probably be just 40 million Euros. This sum would be a joke for the annual state budget,” he said.Lauda claimed the upcoming tax – which was presented by the coalition of Social Democrats (SPÖ) and the People’s Party (ÖVP) last weekend – will hit poor families and the Austrian middle class worst.”I think every Austrian family has the right to fly away for a holiday once a year. Now many families won’t be able to do so,” he said.Lauda also accused the coalition of harming Austrian aviation companies’ competitiveness since Germany and Austria will be the only two countries with a tax on the purchase of flight tickets from 2011.Lauda and a spokeswoman for rival Austrian Airlines (AUA) made clear already on Monday they will pass on extra costs to their customers.AUA co-chief Andreas Malanik accused the SPÖ-ÖVP coalition of having surrendered under the pressure of the German government in a radio interview yesterday.AUA was taken over by German aviation giant Lufthansa last year in a decision which was widely regarded as the only option to save the struggling carrier from bankruptcy.Lauda, meanwhile, said he expected many transfer passengers to avoid flying via Vienna International Airport (VIA) from next year when the flight ticket tax comes into force. “If the levy will also affect transfer passengers, they will fly via Zurich, Paris or London where they don’t pay any extra taxes,” he explained.VIA is Austria’s biggest airport. It registered 18.1 passengers last year, down by 8.3 per cent compared to 2008 figures when Austria and Switzerland co-hosted the European Football Championship.Lauda also said it was likely that the overall number of Austrians travelling via planes per year may decline by 600,000 from 2011 due to the tax.The FlyNiki chief hit the headlines recently by backing a Federation of Austrian Industries (IV) initiative for tax reductions for firms of the country.Asked why he decided to support the campaign, he told the Kurier newspaper: “I decided to take part because companies must not be burdened further. The more pressure they are put under, the fewer jobs they will be able to provide. I wanted to make that clear to the government.”Lauda stressed Austria must stay competitive.His appeal comes one day after Brussels-based think tank Lisbon Council announced Austria had the second-best competitive edge among the European Union’s (EU) 16 members which have adopted the Euro as their sole currency.Germany (8.5 points) had the greatest competitiveness in the Eurozone, the body said, while Austria garnered 8.3 points to come second in its study. The think tank appealed to Germany and Austria to raise their efforts to increase domestic demand for their products and services.