AS a sign of solidarity for those who had to work yesterday, the Day of the Worker, Balearic president Jaume Matas visited air traffic controllers on duty at Palma airport.
While thousands of workers and their families joined the annual May Day march through Palma and the traditional fiesta and giant paella in the Parc de la Mar, Matas, accompanied by the Balearic Minister for Work and Employment Cristóbal Huguet met air traffic controllers, the director of the tower Oscar José Sánchez Fernández and the director of Palma's Son San Joan airport Nemesio Fernández.
Matas admitted that he was very surprised at the pressure under which the air traffic controllers have to work and the difficulty of their job but he praised their high level of professionalism.
There are a total of 60 air traffic controllers at Palma airport, and 60 percent are women.
He also used the visit to remind the Spanish prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, that, because of the vital role the airport plays in the region's economy, he should honour their agreement and give the Balearics the same treatment as other autonomous regions and award management of the terminal to the local authorities.
According to Matas, the Balearics is more than ready to take over control of the airport.
Local councils, the unions, civil aviation companies, the airline industry and air transport and travel industries as a whole have already been involved in devising a management model for Son San Joan the busiest charter airport in Europe during the summer holiday season.
This year the airport, which has a capacity for 35 million passengers per annum, will handle 22 million passengers and Matas stressed that the time has come for Madrid to start decentralising public services.
But, he said that the Balearic model, which involves the public and private sectors, for managing the airport does not include taking over responsibility for air traffic control.
He said that should remain unified across the country.
According to Fernández, the airport expects a seven to eight percent increase in passengers and ten percent in flight movements this year.
However, he said the increased flight movements will not include the new Airbus A-380 super jumbo.
Fernández said neither the airport nor the runways and terminal area are capable of handling such an aircraft.
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