Airlines want a single traffic control system.

International Air Carrier Association bosses met in Palma yesterday to study and discuss how the charter airline sector has performed so far this year. Brussels-based IACA represents 33 airlines with a total fleet of 650 planes which carries an average 118 million passengers every year. However, this year, post September 11 passenger figures are down, in particular on flights to Palma. But while the drop in passengers was on the agenda, so too were a number of other items, such as air delays in European air space this summer with the association pointing the finger at the erratic new air traffic control centre in the UK. IACA president, Marc Frisque, said that the association supports the move to break down the various European air frontiers and set up the single European Union sky. Javier Arrondo, representative for Futura airline, explained that at the moment, every time an aircraft enters another country's airspace, it has to inform a control tower, “something which no longer happens in the States.” This summer, according to IACA, the principal cause of the delays and air congestion at peak periods was the new £623 million Swanwick air traffic control centre in England. Since the centre opened, its reputation and credibility has been severely hit by delays. But supports of the centre claim that Swanwick is vital if the industry is going to have to deal with the forecast 50 per cent increase in flights from two million to three million over the next ten years. The IACA president Marc Frisque however said that Swanwick was operating at near breaking point all summer, and caused European airlines a number of serious problems. Frisque went on to praise Palma's Son San Joan airport saying that it should be used as an example by other Spanish and European airports wanting to improve their operational performance. Air traffic in the Balearics dropped by ten per cent between January and August, IACA reported at the meeting. But in some months, a fall in the number of flight movements of as much as 30 per cent was reported by the airlines, along with a reduction of between 15 and 20 per cent in the numbers of passengers in comparison to the first eight months of last year. Palma airport figures confirm a shortfall of one million passengers. However, IACA estimated that air traffic in the Balearics will rise by five per cent next year still failing to pull off a full recovery.