STAFF REPORTER

PALMA
PALMA'S Son Sant Joan airport is due to undergo significant extension and reform in March next year with the construction of an air traffic hub to receive flights from Spanish and European cities allowing transit passengers to connect with other aircraft.

Javier Marín, Spanish airports director, said yesterday that the works should be complete and the new system up and running by the summer of 2009. A bid budgeted at 53.9 million euros was put out to public tender in May this year, and the Spanish National Airports Authority are due to award the contract at the beginning of the New Year after the finalisation of a technical feasibility study. The timing will enable works to get underway in March.

Marín confirmed that it is Module “C” at Son Sant Joan airport which will undergo major extension works to accommodate the new hub. The system of allowing passengers to disembark from one aircraft and onto another within the same precinct is a significant step forwards in terms of airport organisation. After 20 months of reconstruction, Module C will have 20 new embarcation gates, 10 of which will be the kind which offers a covered walkway leading straight to the door of the aircraft. The aim is to cut by half the distance required to walk between security controls and the point of access to the aircraft. The redesign of the aircraft and passenger handling system has been carried out in collaboration with Pere Nicolau, architect of the latest reconstruction of Palma's international airport. Procedures in place within the new structure will reportedly minimise baggage handling requirements.

Part of the works to start this spring at Son Sant Joan include a new docking arm measuring 9'500 square metres to be situated on a parallel to the passage connecting Modules “C” and “D”; the adaptation of support service buildings; and the construction of the Module's platform walkways along with five new pre-embarcation waiting lounges. Marín highlighted the fact that the use of Palma airport as a European “hub” facilitating traffic between the Islands, the mainland and other European cities will mean an increase in traffic during the six months of the year that are traditionally known as “the low season.” According to forecasts, by 2010, this new form of operation will “process” more than 4.5 million passengers and 32'500 aircraft a year. Marín expressed confidence that the new found ease of transit offered to passengers will encourage businesses to fly “via Palma” to get from Spanish and Portuguese points of origin to any other European destination. “This means,” he said “that the airport will put Palma on the map all year round, and not just six months of the year.

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