I AM glad that at last your paper is providing a forum to air (no pun intended) the very worrying developments in air travel between the UK and Palma and, in particular, from the relatively prosperous and populous South-East England of almost 20 million people.
As a resident of both Surrey and Puerto Pollensa I fly regularly with all of the airlines operating throughout the year from the south-east - BA, BMI and Easyjet. I cannot recall a flight from any of these operators at any time of the year which has not been at least 90% full.
Palma, at least in the summer season, is one of the most popular destinations for visitors from the UK. There are also a substantial number of British people who live in or have holiday homes in Majorca and I regularly see the same faces on BA, BMI and Easyjet flights travelling between the two destinations throughout the year
It was therefore disappointing and surprising when BA announced that its single service to Palma (daily from Gatwick in summer and thrice weekly in winter) would cease from the end of this month and that they would not be recommencing the service from next Summer. There has since been some kite flying from BA's subsidiary at London City Airport, BA Cityflyer, that it may operate a weekend service from next March although the implementation of this still remains to be confirmed.
The Balearic government should be particularly concerned by the withdrawal of BA because it was the only operator to offer a limited business class product between the UK and Majorca.
The subsequent announcement of the withdrawal of BMI's service from Heathrow from the first week of November was a double surprise. The withdrawal by BA should, on the face of it, have been a boost for BMI given the reduction in capacity BA's withdrawal will cause. At present the announcement of BMI's withdrawal has been limited to their services for this coming winter but it is notable that it is not currently possible to book any flights with BMI to Palma during next spring or early summer. Again the Balearic government should be concerned because BMI was the only airline operating a service to the UK's main hub airport.
The triple whammy to travellers from the South-East is Easyjet's withdrawal of its Luton service. As a result, in three weeks time, Easyjet will have a monopoly on flights to Palma from the South-East in winter operating one flight a day from Gatwick and one flight most days from Stanstead. Assuming BMI do not recommence their services next summer Easyjet will also be the only scheduled airline operating to Palma from the South-East throughout the year.
The result of the loss of this competition among three airlines sometimes operating five flights a day between them in the winter is already being felt. The same number of people are chasing far fewer seats and some of the no-frills Easyjet flights I have had to book at less convenient times in place of cancelled BA and BMI flights are, in some cases, over three times more expensive than the full and semi-full service BA and BMI flights my family and I had originally been booked on.
It is my firm belief that the demand for flights between the South-East of England and Palma throughout the year is as strong as it has ever been and, if the Balearic government could get its act into gear to support and encourage winter tourism, that demand could and would grow. As it stands, regular travellers between the South-East and Palma can only hope that the airlines concerned will reconsider their decisions or that alternatives like Flybe and Spanair will step in and take up the opportunity the withdrawals which are taking place offer to them.
Yours faithfully, James Martin (Surrey & Puerto Pollensa)