Germany rejects job-loss claims over air tax

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The German government Friday rejected airlines' claims that its proposed new 26-euro (33-dollar) tax on airport departures would result in the loss of thousands of jobs.

As part of a sweeping austerity package designed to save more than 80 billion euros over four years, Germany plans to introduce the tax next year and hopes to swell its coffers by around one billion euros.

But the levy -- 13 euros for short-haul flights and 26 euros for long-haul -- came under fire from airlines already hurt badly by the global economic downturn.

A Lufthansa spokesman, citing independent studies, has estimated that up to 10,000 jobs could be lost as a result of the tax.

But Michael Offer, a spokesman for Germany's finance ministry, hit back at a regular government briefing, saying: "We do not understand where these figures come from and they do not correspond to what we foresee."

Airlines "should not suffer large losses" from the tax, which is expected to be passed on to passengers, Offer added.

He nevertheless acknowledged that Berlin has considered the knock-on effect of passengers switching to other forms of transport, such as the train, but deemed this "very difficult to quantify."

The levy is set to run until a carbon-emissions trading scheme that has already been agreed comes into effect for air travel in 2012.

© 2010 AFP

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