Air Berlin occupancy rate down as ticket tax dispute continues

The occupancy rate of FlyNiki’s most important cooperation partner has edged down.Air Berlin, which holds a 49.9 per cent with an option for the total takeover of FlyNiki, said today (Mon) it had 28.79 million passengers between January and October of this year, up by 3.4 per cent year on year.The company, Germany’s second-biggest airline after Lufthansa, added its occupancy rate edged down by 1.3 per cent at the same time as 77 per cent of tickets were sold in the first 10 months of 2010.Air Berlin recorded 3.49 million passengers last month, up by 7.6 per cent compared to October 2009. The company stressed all figures included customer figures of its partners FlyNiki and TUIfly.Air Berlin started operating between Klagenfurt Airport and the German city of Dusseldorf last week. The low cost carrier is understood to be increasing the number of weekly flights from two to three next month.Air Berlin’s announcement of passenger figures comes shortly after airline bosses attacked the Austrian government over plans for a so-called ticket tax.FlyNiki boss Niki Lauda warned recently that his company may suffer a 10 million Euro year on year turnover decline in 2011 if the federal coalition carries out plans to charge every ticket for flights departing in Austria with a tax between eight and 35 Euros from next April.”This tax will be incredibly unfair. 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.Social Democrats (SPÖ) and the People’s Party (ÖVP) made it clear that they would do so as part of a package of austerity measures announced last month. The coalition hopes this levy will help its attempt to reduce the state debt which is currently around 70 per cent of the Austrian gross domestic product (GDP).Bosses of FlyNiki rivals Austrian Airlines (AUA) and Lufthansa also called on the Austrian government to rethink the measure to avoid the country losing out in competitiveness. Airline chiefs claimed many passengers would chose airports in neighbouring countries like Switzerland and Slovakia to avoid paying the ticket tax.The German government made clear prior to the announcements by SPÖ and ÖVP it will introduce a similar taxation model next year.