STAFF REPORTER A rolling plan unveiled yesterday by the Spanish Airports Authority (AENA) aims to convert Palma's Son Sant Joan airport into an “airport city” providing cargo, maintenance and industrial services on top of its already established development as a major hub for connecting European flights.

The plan, confirmed AENA sources, will be executed between 2009 and 2012, and will reportedly bring wide-ranging benefits to both the Balearics and its commercial users. “New jobs will be created and wealth will be generated through new investment,” AENA claimed, pointing to the development of an industrial zone to the north of the airport, the establishment of facilities for corporate air travel, freight services, the extension of Globalia's maintenance hangar, as well as the station for the planned tram line running out from the centre of Palma and on to Arenal.

AENA is planning to invest more than 352 million euros in airports in the Balearics between 2009 and 2012, 240 million of which will be pumped into Son Sant Joan alone. “It's important that we act to meet current demand, improve operating conditions for airlines which pay to use our facilities and provide services which our passengers need,” a spokesman said.

The most highly publicised building work currently being undertaken at the airport is a new flight connection terminal which will be completed next year at a cost of 54.3 million euros. Air Berlin, said an airline source, wants to use the new terminal for its current medium-distance flights and for longer distance hauls which it wants to start operating out of Palma in 2011. Air Berlin sees the hub as providing better connections between the mainland and Germany and AENA considers it a chance to entice other airlines to Palma.