By Humphrey Carter
THE Balearic government has reached the conclusion that the only way for local residents to enjoy cheaper air travel is for Madrid to reduce airport taxes. The Balearic Ministry for Public Works will start lobbying central government in the New Year for a reduction in airport taxes, similar to the cuts which have already been made to port taxes. Airport taxes are set to go up again in Spain on January 1 and, according to the Minister for Public Works, Mabel Cabrer, the airlines have reported that the new increase will lead to an average rise in the price of an air ticket for a one-hour journey, for example Palma-Madrid, of as much as 18 percent. The airlines, which since the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States, have had to meet growing security costs while having to respond to a decline in business, their operating margins have become increasingly slim and all tax increases are having to be passed onto the passenger. Airlines, which currently pay 22 taxes, intend to fight further tax hikes as well.
Included in the 22 taxes are a passengers tax, landing and take off taxes, handling taxes and the secueity taxes. But of the 18.8 percent New Year increases, the biggest share, 7.2 percent, corresponds to the passenger tax. Having to meet rising operating costs, the Balearic government believes it impossible for airlines to be expected to reduce their prices, hence why Palma wants Madrid to cut ease airport taxes. The regional government in the Canary Islands is expected to back the Balearics and present central government with a united front. The Balearic government's immediate concern is to reduce the price on inter-island flights before addressing the costs of domestic flights, in some cases it is cheaper top fly overseas from Palma that to certain destinations on the mainland. Palma is also prepared to legal action against Madrid, should all other avenues fail. Mabel Cabrer has admitted that it is not going to be an easy process and that the negotiations with central government are going to a long and drawn out affair. However, the minister believes that the united front with the Canary Islands will help to increase pressure on Madrid. Central government has recognised that high airport taxes do not lead to cheaper air travel, but Cabrer said that with a general election falling next year, the issue may be put on the back burner for a new government to deal with.

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