By Humphrey Carter

PALMA
FLYING between the Balearics and the UK is going to cost more in the New Year thanks to the Chancellor of Exchequer, Gordon Brown's, decision to double taxes on air travel.

On Tuesday, Britain's aviation regulator proposed hiking airline charges at Heathrow and Gatwick airports, sparking fierce criticism from airlines, even as the regulator recommended scrapping price controls at Stansted, which handles a large number of Balearic-bound flights, and then yesterday, the Chancellor of the Exchequer only angered airlines and consumer associations further by announcing his plans to double air travel taxes.

SHOP AROUND
The basic levy on short-haul flights will rise to 10 pounds and that on long haul to 40 pounds with both levies doubled for business or first class travel.

The Balearics is blessed with low cost air links to a host of British and European airports but in the New Year it is going to cost us at least five pounds more to travel by air.

Low cost airlines have been fuelling the booming independent and residential tourism market in the Balearics with their cheap air fares being the big attraction, but should the low cost airlines start to lose their competitiveness, travellers may shop around more for the best deal. In a statement, easyJet, Britain's biggest low cost operator in the Balearics, said “Gordon Brown's Air Passenger Duty proposals are flat-rate and do not incentivise airlines to operate the cleanest aircraft.” “His proposal ... bears none of the hallmarks of an efficient environmental tax and all the hallmarks of a chancellor keen to raise stealth taxes,” it added.

British Airways called the tax “an extremely blunt instrument.” It would not benefit the environment in any way and the airline will pass the tax hike on to passengers, Chairman Martin Broughton said in a speech yesterday to the Aviation Club in London, an example all airlines are expected to follow.

The airline industry also warned that the Chancellor's decision will weaken Europe's airlines against overseas competitors.

PALMA IS TOP LOW COST AIRPORT

Staff reporter
THIS year, Palma's Son Sant Joan airport has become Spain's top low cost airport.
During the first nine months of this year, 2.8 million passengers have travelled to Palma with a low cost airline, 12.4 percent more than during the first three quarters of last year. Spanish airports handled a total of 13.5 million low cost passengers during the same period, with Malaga second busiest to Palma and Barcelona's El Prat, third.

During the peak summer months, the number of low cost passengers rose by an average of 14 percent, 16.3 per cent in June, with Air Berlin, which has transformed Palma airport into its Southern Europe and North Africa flight centre, carrying the most passengers. easyJet continues to be the largest UK operator in Palma which also handles low cost airlines bmiBaby, Thomson.fly, Virgin Express, HapagLloyd Express, Niki, Transavia, Jet 2, MyLite, FlyBe.com with a number of Eastern European carriers keen on flying into Majorca next year.

Yesterday, easyJet unveiled a new route from Luton to Ibiza.
The new daily connection will take off on May 5.
The low cost airline already operates twice-weekly flights from Gatwick and Stansted to Ibiza.

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