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By Humphrey Carter PALMA

THE Spanish government came under international pressure yesterday to prevent the 22 days of airports strikes from going ahead while the tourist and business communities in the Balearics demanded that the strikes be prevented.

However, as the Bulletin warned yesterday, news of the mere threat of the strikes hitting the front pages overseas will damage the tourist industry even if the industrial action can be averted.

Banner headlines warning of “Easter holiday flight misery and it could last all summer” covered the front pages of all of the British newspapers yesterday.

“HOLIDAY MISERY” And news of the strikes broke on the opening day of the ITB tourism fair in Berlin and will no doubt set alarm bells ringing when the Balearics and the Spanish tourist industry as a whole was expecting Berlin to be a celebration of the recovery in the German market and bookings for Spain. “Britons face holiday misery after Spanish airport workers threaten to walk out for THREE WEEKS,” proclaimed the Daily Mail. “Brits Face Holiday Havoc Over Spanish Strikes” was reporting Sky News. “Spanish airport staff vote to strike and threaten travel chaos for Brits' Easter holidays,” warned The Mirror.
Yesterday, the Minister for Public Works, Jose Blanco, told parliament that he is determined to break the deadlock and reach a deal with the unions and Spanish airport authority Aena to prevent the strikes from going ahead, but thousands of Europeans planning on coming to the Balearics and Spain this Easter and Summer will be no doubt reassessing their travel arrangements, especially as the strike days have been announced.

But, Blanco is not only having to deal with mounting pressure from Spain's tourist industry and chambers of commerce, he could also find himself on a collision course with the European Union.

Yesterday, Ryanair, Europe's biggest low-cost airline, urged the European Union to ban air traffic controllers and airport staff from going on strike by declaring them to be providers of an “essential service”.

The European Commission has been urged to step in to prevent air traffic chaos this Easter amid the threats of a series of strikes by Spanish airport staff.

And although Aena says baggage handlers and air traffic controllers will not be affected, Ryanair which has made a big commitment to the Balearics and Spain this year, is demanding EU action to prevent a repeat of the air travel industry misery which blighted flights across Europe last year.

The Spanish government had to declare a state of emergency for the first time in the country's 33-year democracy to halt a wildcat strike by air traffic controllers just before Christmas and Ryanair has already calculated it will have to cancel 300 flights for 57'000 passengers over Easter unless the strikes can be averted.

Airlines were yesterday frantically drawing up contingency plans because the strikes will cause chaos on Europe's busiest routes with an estimated 100'000 passengers flying between the UK and Spain every day during the peak periods of the strikes.

AVOID SPAIN

Workers from maintenance staff to airport firefighters who work for Aena, the state airport authority are protesting against the government's plans to sell off 49 percent of the country's airports, fearing it could hit their jobs and lead to higher operating cost which will push air fares up and hit the travelling public in the pocket.

Travel experts in the United Kingdom were yesterday warning that, now the news had broken of the strikes, many Britons who have not booked their Easter or Summer holiday will no doubt avoid Spain, not least because travel insurers may reject claims arising from strike-hit flights if you booked after the industrial action was announced.

But with holiday companies having cut back on flights to Egypt and Tunisia after the political unrest, this could increase prices for destinations such as Cyprus and Malta or force tour operators into resuming normal flight services to Tunisia and Egypt where there are going to be thousands of late holiday bargains on offer.