By H. Carter

PALMA
DEMOLITION teams started knocking down the old Terminal B at Palma airport yesterday as part of a 300 million plan to improve and expand the airport so that it will be able to handle 28.5 million passengers a year by 2012.

Terminal B was built in 1972 and will take a month to demolish. Airport director Nemesio Suarez said yesterday that while the building was an important part of the airport's history, its demolition marks the start of a new era for Son San Joan which will not only herald a new regional management scheme but also a significant increase in passenger numbers and air traffic.

Spanish airports authority AENA is going to pump 300 million euros into expanding the airport's services and facilities. For example, Terminal B will be replaced with new fingers while Terminal C will also be expanded and new fingers installed. The new inter-island and domestic airline terminal, Module B, which was built in 2002 is also going to be enlarged to handle the steady increase in air traffic. Access to and from the terminal will also be improved with aircraft being able to taxi right up to the satellite terminal. Some 30 million passengers per year is the benchmark for the Balearics to be entitled to have a role in managing the airport and AENA believes that the expansion project will help the airport eventually reach the 30 million target. AENA said yesterday that it is confident the new facilities will be operating by the end of next year with Terminal C, which has developed into a flight hub for the low cost airlines, handling 4.5 million passengers and 32.500 flights a year by 2010.

The electricity plant adjacent to the old terminal is also going come down to create extra parking and better access to the control tower via a new tunnel. This year, Palma airport is expected to handle just over 23 million passengers, 0.9 percent more than last year.

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