Air Berlin's loss during the first three quarters of 2011 increased six-fold over the same period last year, with the company blaming Germany's aviation tax and reduced traffic to North Africa for the financial problems.

The airline made a loss of €134.3 million ($180.8 million) for the period ending 30 September against a €23.7 million loss during the first nine months of 2010.

Revenue grew year-on-year by 11.5% to €3.27 billion, however, earnings before tax and interest (EBIT) fell from €37.4 million during the first nine months of 2010 to a pre-tax loss of €123.7 million this year.

Last year's positive nine-month EBIT was supported by the sale of some aircraft and consolidation of Austrian budget carrier Niki into the group. However, for the full year 2010 the company made a €141.6 million pre-tax loss.

This year's deficit will be even larger, the company said.

Without Germany's environmental levy, which was introduced in January, Air Berlin said it would have achieved a €2.3 million pre-tax profit during the first nine months.

It added that Europe's uncertain economic environment has led to an "unstable" business on the continent and will pose "significant" additional challenge for the airline industry as a whole.

Nevertheless, Air Berlin said it would continue with its "proven" business model as both a network and leisure carrier.

The airline wants to save €200 million through its "Shape & Size" efficiency improvement programme next year. It had originally planned a gradual fleet growth from 171 aircraft at the end of this year to 190 at the end of 2014, but will now cut its fleet to 164 next month.

This is to be further reduced to 154 by the end of 2012 and then slowly grow to 162 at the end of 2014.

The carrier has 68 Boeing 737-700, -800 or 787 aircraft on order.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news