By Humphrey Carter

TWENTY-FOUR hours after the Spanish airline industry was rocked by the announcement by the Palma-based airline Spanair that it plans to shed a third of its workforce, Ireland low-cost carrier Ryanair said yesterday that its winter cost cutting programme is going to hit Majorca.

While Ryanair has a number of new routes planned out of its Palma hub for December, it will first be suspending all its Palma operations between November 4 and December 19.

Ryanair sources explained yesterday that while it is having to battle rising operating costs at Stansted Airport (see Business) the combination of rising fuel prices and Palma being one of the most expensive airports to operate from in Spain makes flying in and out of Majorca during what is considered a relatively quiet period, financially unviable at a time when all airlines are trying to reduce costs.

A total of 372 flights and 56'000 passengers will be affected by the Palma suspension and, according to Ryanair, the airport will lose some seven million euros in revenue from airport unpaid taxes. “If Palma airport had lower operating costs, it would not be necessary for us to reduce our operations and Majorca would not have lost 56'000 potential visitors,” said Ryanair Chief Executive Michael Cawley in a statement released yesterday afternoon. “High fuel prices and Palma's expensive operating costs make it very difficult for us to keep our airfares down,” he added.
Balearic President Francesc Antich yesterday said that he and his government are “very worried” about the futures of the 1'100 Spanair employees which face losing their jobs here in the Balearics and on the mainland.

Antich announced that the government will do all it can to help those made redundant as a result of Spanair's restructuring plan and also ensure that none of Spanair's inter-island and Balearic domestic routes are affected. Spanair yesterday confirmed that a total 1'100 jobs are going to be lost.