By Humphrey Carter OVER 20 million passengers used Palma's Son San Joan airport last year - a new all time record. Spanish airport and air traffic control authority AENA said yesterday that 20.416.321 million people used Palma airport last year making it Spain's third busiest airport after Barcelona and Madrid.

Palma air traffic control was also the third busiest with the airport handling 177.851 take offs and landings.
That works out an average of 487 flights per day and 20 flight movements per hour.
The record number of passengers and flights in Palma represents 6.4 and 5.2 percent increases respectively in comparison to 2003.
However, the 6.4 percent increase in passengers is nearly triple the 2.3 percent rise in tourists. One of the driving forces behind the Palma passenger boom is the rapidly growing “hub” with German airlines, mainly low-cost, using Palma as a stop-over airport for flights bound for holiday destinations on mainland Spain, the Canaries, Portugal or even North Africa.

Spanish airports handled a total of 165.952.091 passengers last year, nearly eight percent more than in 2003 with an important swing in commercial airline traffic.

The year-end figures are further proof of a down turn in charter airline traffic with an increasing number of people using low-cost airlines.
Charter traffic to Spain fell by 4.2 percent last year, while scheduled international flight traffic rose by nearly ten percent. However, there was also a big growth in the domestic market.

Domestic traffic increased by nearly eight per cent.
Palma airport will thus continue with its plans for expansion in order to handle the ever increasing volume of passengers and air traffic - much to the fury of residents in nearby Can Pastilla and local environmental organisations.