German air travel tax will result in further fall in domestic demand; Lufthansa and airberlin dominate main routes
Unlike France and the UK, where air travel (and many other aspects of society) is focused around a single dominant city (Paris and London respectively), Germany has no such single focus. The capital may be in Berlin, but the country’s financial centre is Frankfurt and the country’s industrial heartland is the Ruhr which stretches from Düsseldorf to Dortmund. Then there is Munich, which has hosted the Olympics and is home to BMW, and Hamburg, which is the only German city with two football teams in the country’s top division.
As a result, the country’s top domestic air routes are not dominated by a single, common city. Last year, there were seven routes that generated over one million passengers, but none of these have ever managed more than 1.8 million, and the top four routes are separated by less than 150,000 passengers.
Since 2006, the Munich to Hamburg route has overtaken Frankfurt to Berlin Tegel as the leading domestic route. The Frankfurt – Munich route (which links Lufthansa’s two major hubs) has fallen in the rankings from second in 2001 to eighth in 2009. The two airports are just 300 kilometres apart and so have been vulnerable to increased competition from high-speed rail services. It is also the only top 10 route on which airberlin is not present.
The biggest growth has come on the Hamburg – Stuttgart route where annual traffic has doubled from 400,000 passengers to 800,000 as a result of being the only one of the top 10 routes to be served by Germanwings, Lufthansa’s wholly-owned low-cost subsidiary.
|Munich – Hamburg||600 km||airberlin 48, Lufthansa 93|
|Frankfurt – Berlin Tegel||434 km||airberlin 30, Lufthansa 105|
|Munich – Berlin Tegel||481 km||airberlin 48, Lufthansa 87|
|Munich – Düsseldorf||486 km||airberlin 55, Lufthansa 88|
|Frankfurt – Hamburg||413 km||airberlin 28, Lufthansa 100|
|Munich – Cologne/Bonn||435 km||airberlin 48, Lufthansa 93|
|Cologne/Bonn – Berlin Tegel||463 km||airberlin 63, Lufthansa 45|
|Frankfurt – Munich||298 km||Lufthansa 84|
|Hamburg – Stuttgart||551 km||airberlin 25, germanwings 16, Lufthansa 36|
|Berlin Tegel – Stuttgart||517 km||airberlin 37, Lufthansa 47|
|Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 6 September 2010|
New “ecology” tax will add €8 to each domestic sector
As part of its ‘cost-cutting’ measures, the German government has decided to introduce a new tax on all passengers departing from German airports starting on 1 January 2011. It hopes to raise €1 billion per annum to help reduce the budget deficit. Last week, it was confirmed that this tax would cost domestic passengers €8 on each sector, or €16 per roundtrip. The government seems confident that airlines will simply pass this charge on to passengers but has failed to consider what impact this may have on passenger demand and thus jobs in the aviation, and other, industries. However, Lufthansa has indicated that it intends to continue offering its headline-grabbing €99 return fares, even in the domestic market, though presumably it will aim to sell rather fewer seats at this price than before.
So far in 2010 (January to July), domestic traffic at Germany’s airports is down 0.1% while traffic overall across all routes and airports is up 2.7%. Last year, domestic passenger numbers at German airports fell by 4.6% to 46.75 million. This represents almost exactly one-quarter of all airport passengers in Germany.