Amidst concerns that Spanish airlines could increase their ticket prices by at least ten percent because of the rising cost of fuel and the strong Dollar, Balearic Chief Minister Francesc Antich and the chairman of the Palma-based airline Air Europa, Juan José Hidalgo, met for talks yesterday to discuss ways of easing the financial burden for Balearic air travellers, especially in the wake of the latest increases in fuel prices. Emerging from their meeting at the Consolat de la Mar in Palma, Antich expressed his deep concern about the price of air tickets about to rise and both men backed calls on Madrid to take some form of action in order to ensure cheaper air travel for the Balearics. Antich, who also took the opportunity of yesterday's meeting to discuss the potential merger of Air Europa with state carrier Iberia, branded central government's refusal not to declare inter-island and flights to the mainland from the Balearics in the interests of the general public as irresponsible and discriminatory. Antich repeated calls yesterday for a Balearic air service to be established in order to fight off the competition and guarantee cheap air travel. The chairman of Air Europa, who called the meeting in order to ease fears over the implications of the possible Iberia-Air Europa merger, said that central government should increase the discounts Balearic residents are entitled to on air tickets, which is currently capped at 33 percent, and that Madrid should also help airlines reduce their escalating operating costs. Hidalgo pointed out that central government subsidises the construction of the fast train line across the mainland so that the costs are not passed on to the traveller but in our case all the airport costs have to be met by the airlines which obviously has financial repercussions on the consumer.
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