Tourism concerns as Air Berlin may bunk

A leading low-cost carrier considers leaving Klagenfurt Airport (KLU), according to reports.

Austrian newspapers claim today (Tues) that Air Berlin could stop operating between KLU and aerodromes in the German cities of Berlin, Dusseldorf and Hamburg later this year. The dailies report the company – Germany’s second-busiest airline after Lufthansa – demand financial support from the provincial government to help it carry new burdens.

Air Berlin previously criticised the Austrian government coalition for implementing a tax on flight tickets. Social Democrats (SPÖ) and the conservative People’s Party (ÖVP) decided to ask airlines to hand over between eight and 35 Euros for every ticket sold as of April 2011. Germany introduced a similar levy earlier this year, making the two countries the only European states with such surcharges.

The Austrian flight ticket taxation scheme means extra costs of 13 Euros per passenger to Air Berlin, according to business news from today. The Berlin-based aviation firm’s finances are reportedly also negatively affected by additional security costs and soaring kerosene prices.

Carinthian ÖVP boss Josef Martinz announced today that the provincial government of Carinthia – formed by his party and the Carinthian Freedom Party (FPK) – was ready to debate the matter with Air Berlin if the airline were asking for help. However, the deputy governor also pointed out that the FPK-ÖVP coalition was ready to debate alternative measures to the benefit of the local tourism industry if Air Berlin abandoned its operations at KLU.

Local businesspeople are allegedly unsettled amid fears of the negative impact of a possible departure of Air Berlin. Carinthia is strongly depending on its tourism branch which focuses on bathing holidays, hiking and skiing trips.

KLU opened in 1925. It is situated around four kilometres from the city centre. The aerodrome registered nearly 426,000 passengers in 2010 after around 410,000 customers were counted in 2009.

Air Berlin owns a 49.9 per cent interest in FlyNiki, Austria’s biggest budget airline. The German company headed by Joachim Hunold holds an option for a total takeover of FlyNiki which is managed by Niki Lauda.

Air Berlin counted 12.95 million passengers between January and May, up by 6.3 per cent compared to the first five months of 2010. Its fleet consists of 170 planes. The company announced today that former KLM manager Paul Gregorowitsch agreed to join its executive board. The Dutchman will become the fourth member of the board when he takes over as CCO in September.