Lufthansa upset by Austrian ticket tax

Lufthansa boss Wolfgang Mayrhuber has appealed to the Austrian government to remain a reliable partner – and pull out from setting up a tax on flight tickets.The Austrian businessman, who will retire as head of the German airline by the end of this year after having been in charge since 2003, said today (Fri) that the planned levy pose a serious obstacle to Austrian Airlines’ (AUA) attempts to get back in the black.Lufthansa took over AUA last year – after the Austrian government coalition agreed to bolster the struggling firm with 500 million Euros.”AUA is not over the worst yet,” Mayrhuber warned. The Lufthansa chief, who will be succeeded by German Christoph Franz, said: “Austria expected Lufthansa to be a reliable partner when AUA was in trouble. We are expecting the same reliability now.”Mayrhuber warned many people would opt for taking flights from Czech capital Prague, in the Slovakian city of Bratislava or Zurich, Switzerland, if the Social Democrats (SPÖ) and the People’s Party (ÖVP) go ahead in introducing an eight-Euro tax on flights from Austrian airports to European destinations.SPÖ and ÖVP presented their plans – which are part of an austerity package of cuts and higher taxes – last week. The coalition also announced it will add an extra 40 Euros to every long-distance ticket as of next year.The German federal coalition of the Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU) and the Free Democratic Party (FDP) announced half a year ago that they would add a charge to tickets for flights departing from Germany with eight to 45 Euros depending on their destinations.The Netherlands withdrew a similar taxation system after a few months some years ago due to a dramatic decline in ticket sales. Niki Lauda, head of low cost airline FlyNiki, branded the upcoming Austrian ticket tax “mad”. The businessman also claimed the levy was “incredibly unfair”.AUA had 8.4 million passengers between January and September of this year, around 10.3 per cent more than in the same period of 2009. The firm suffered losses of 44.4 million Euros in the first three quarters of 2010. Lufthansa officials said yesterday they had expected AUA to be back in the black by next year.Meanwhile, reports have it that Mayrhuber will join Lufthansa’s supervisory board. The Austrian has remained tight-lipped about what he planned for the future ever since it was confirmed earlier this year that his contract as boss of the firm would not be extended.