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STAFF REPORTER

PALMA
THE 22 days of airports strikes may have been averted, but the threat of industrial action over Easter and during the Summer has hit bookings to Spain, in particular in the United Kingdom where the airport dispute was front page news.

Flight search website Skyscanner, which is a portal for over 600 airlines covering 670'000 routes, reported yesterday that it has noticed a marked drop in interest for flights to Spain over the past week.

Compared to the first week of March, interest in booking flights to Spain in the UK, fell by 13 percent last week while there has been a marked increase in flight bookings to competing destinations, especially around the dates on which airport staff were threatening to strike. “Part of the damage” has been done, a Skyscanner source said, underlining the fact that hotels in the Balearics and the Canaries have also received cancellations over the past week.

The strikes would have closed all of the country's 47 airports, which see nearly 100'000 passengers flying between Britain and Spain each day during popular times.

The unions have now reached a preliminary agreement with Spanish airport operator Aena to avert the disruption.
A draft plan will be put to ground staff in a referendum next week. The strike, due to start on April 20, was initially called because of concerns about the conditions and job security of nearly 13'000 employees in the face of proposed part privatisation.

The Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said it was “good news” and “guaranteed the movement of the public”, with airports working at normal capacity during the Easter and summer holiday periods.

Three-quarters of tourists arrive here in Spain by plane, a total of more than 190 million passengers each year.
Isaiah Taboas, Spain's transport secretary, said: “The tourism sector and citizens can be confident that they can travel during the Holy Week.” Eduardo Coelho, an analyst at broker BPI, said: “We welcome this announcement, albeit we stress that it is a pre-agreement that needs to be confirmed by workers in a poll.” In the meantime, the Spanish tourist board is launching a major marketing campaign to make sure Europe knows that the strikes are off and Spain is open for business.