Staff reporter
THE managing director of Air Berlin, Achim Hunold, announced yesterday in Palma that the airline will increase its scheduled flights by 80 percent this coming winter, a programme which will include 142 weekly flights between Majorca and Germany. He specified that Air Berlin will operate two daily links from Palma to Valencia. These are in addition to the already existing links with Madrid, Barcelona, Alicante and Málaga. He furthermore indicated that four weekly flights to Faro in Portugal will be offered, two to Almería and Jerez de la Frontera; and a daily link to Ibiza and Sevilla. According to Hunold, connections with Majorca's airport represent 57 percent of Air Berlin's operations. During the first nine months of the year, the airline registered an increase of 50 percent in the number of passengers that it carried either from or to the island. This growth reflects the success that low cost airlines are currently enjoying. Their introduction has changed the traditional pattern of travel in Europe, commented the company managing director.

An increase in the number of flights to and from the island is a response to the “change of direction” in tourist policy of the Balearic government, added Hunold. He was confident that the expansion or air route destinations in low season will contribute to all-year-round tourism, which, he affirmed, “has taken a considerable retrograde step in the last few years”. He focussed attention on the links that Air Berlin already has in place with London, Zürich, Milán, Rome and Barcelona, that after one year of being in operation, claim to have serviced more than a million passengers. Son Sant Joan airport on Majorca lays claim to the greatest number of passengers carried by Air Berlin said Hunold, who accentuated how well its services had been received by the Spanish client market, which has favourably patronised the network connections from Palma to Madrid, Barcelona, Ibiza and Málaga. Currently these routes represent somewhere in the region of 40 percent of Air Berlin's flights, which has prompted the company to further extend its networking next winter at Son Sant Joan airport. It has scheduled a new airlink from Germany to Palma, departing about 6am which will then go on to other destinations on the Peninsula.
Air Berlin will be able to offer passengers some “very competitive prices” for bookings made well in advance. Even so, this year has been “extremely difficult” owing to reduced bookings by tour operators, in contrast to their initial forecasts, he specified. In his view, the unfortunate timing of the run up to the war in Iraq with the booking period for tourist package deals and the economic recession in Germany, greatly reduced tourist numbers. Air Berlin is the 4th largest domestic flight operator in Spain, stated the company's managing director, who pointed to the increase in the number of flights going to the Peninsula which stop off on Majorca. Son Sant Joan is the most important port of call in the company's air travel network.

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