Five thousand people employed by the private airlines in the Balearics will spend the weekend worrying for their futures and eager to learn if they still have a job come Monday morning. Palma is home to the bulk of Spain's private airlines and their future is hanging by a thread which only the Spanish government can save. The Balearic Minister for Finance, Antoni Monserrat expressed his concern for the situation yesterday “airplanes are our roads of communication, if they are grounded then we are cut off from the outside world.” While fellow European governments have stepped in to prevent their airlines from being grounded, unable to meet the escalating insurance premiums, Spanish airlines are still faced with the possibility of having to ground planes within the next 36 hours if the government is not forthcoming with a financial aid package. Spanish flag carrier Iberia has already announced that severe job cuts are unavoidable and that, while services will continue, it is going to have to reduce frequencies on certain routes. “The airlines employ around 5'000 people in the Balearics, more than the shoe and wood industries put together”, Monserrat said. “The government in Palma is monitoring the situation very closely, the airline industry is strategically vital for our economy,” the Minister stressed. “The Prime Minister Aznar and his government have got to understand the situation and do everything they can to help ease the situation or solve the airlines' problems. Whether it is through tax reductions or whatever, because otherwise if the airline industry is allowed to come to a grinding halt in Spain, so too will the Balearics.”

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