THE announcement by flag carrier Iberia and inter-island operator Air Nostrum to increase its air fares by as much as four per cent has fuelled the argument between Palma and Madrid over greater travel discounts for Balearic residents. The airlines claim that the air fare hikes have been caused by Spanish airport authority AENA's increase in airport taxes which came into effect on January 1 but the move has angered Balearic residents and enraged the local government. The Balearic government has applied to Madrid on numerous occasions for an increase in flight discounts from 33 to 50 per cent. Not only is Madrid stalling on the issue, most probably because of the forthcoming elections, but has not even bothered to reply to Palma's latest proposal. Local government spokesperson Antoni Garcias said that the news of an increase in air fares is worrying, especially as it has come amidst talk of reducing air and sea travel costs for Balearic residents. Garcias said that this week's air fare hikes is further evidence that Madrid has little alternative but to increase discounts, declare domestic and inter-island links to the Balearics a public service and stop discriminating against the Balearic public.