New in 2011: flight taxes

Departures Board at Frankfurt Airport - ©Can Stock Photo Inc. / AlexTThis summer the German Government introduced a new tax of flight tickets. It is called the Luftverkehrsabgabe, and means that passengers have to pay between 8 and 45 Euros per flight and applies to all commercial passenger flights that take-off at German airports from 1st Januar, 2011.

Just to make sure that people did not start booking their flights for next year early, the tax came into force on 1st September this year, so that it would be levied on any tickets purchased from that date onwards for flights in 2011.

One of the results has been that Ryanair have announced that they will be reducing the number of their flights from German airports, including Frankfurt-Hahn, which will be a blow to the economy on the rural parts of the country where such airports are located.  Some estimates put the number of jobs that will be lost at around 3000.

But with less flights taking off, surely the revenue from other taxes will go down as well?  Will the new tax have any effect, other than to reduce the choice of German travellers and push up prices?


Thunderstorm closes Frankfurt Airport

Yesterday evening I was flying back from Madrid to Frankfurt with a Spanair flight, which was already an hour late, when the flight was suddenly diverted to Stuttgart!

The reason for the diversion was an unusual event in Frankfurt – the airport was closed for all starts and landings.  This was due to a thunderstorm over the airport.

What this meant for me was that instead of landing at 21:05 in Frankfurt, the plane landed at around 21:30 in Stuttgart, having circled over Frankfurt-Hahn for a while.  Here it re-fuelled, and later flew on at 23:30 to Frankfurt, arrived just after midnight and coming to a stop far away from the terminal, leaving the passengers to be taken by bus and wait another 45 minutes for the baggage to arrive.

Whilst I appreciate that it was better to continue the journey on the same aircraft to Frankfurt rather than being put onto a train or even a bus, the information available to the passengers could have been better.

Firstly, when we landed it was announced in Spanish and English that we would be going to the terminal and then await further instructions – which was translated into German as “wir fahren erstmal zum Terminal und dann… keine Ahnung”.  Keine Ahnung did not go down well!

Then at 22:25 we were told to fasten our seatbelts as we would be flying in 4 minutes – those 4 minutes turned into an hour.

JK127 from Madrid - via Stuttgart

JK127 from Madrid - via Stuttgart

What really took the biscuit was the answer given to a passenger who asked – in Spanish – about compensation for the late arrival – I don’t know whether they missed a connect flight, or were just enquiring.  They were told that it was a weather problem, and so not covered by the usual rules.

BUT if we had taken off on time, we would have landed before the storm, but we didn’t even board on time!  How do you explain that, Spanair?

I have filled out a EU complaint form (Regulation 261/2004 being the important number to know at such times!) and see what happens.  I didn’t find “I hope you had a pleasant flight” quite so appropriate last night.

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