By Humphrey Carter

THE 200 millionth passenger to use a Spanish airport this year was given a gala welcome at Palma's Son San Joan airport yesterday morning.
This year has been one of the busiest yet to Spanish airports and the director of Palma airport, Nemesio Suarez, announced yesterday that, come the end of this year, the airport would have handled a record 23.3 million passengers, four percent up on last year's 22.8 million.

Suarez was on hand to present passenger number 200 million with a Spanish airport's VIP pass and the director general of Air Berlin for Spain and Portugal, Alvaro Middelmann handed over a ticket for four people to any one of the destinations served by Air Berlin.

This year, the German low cost airline has consolidated itself as Palma's main carrier flying nearly six million passengers in and out of Majorca.
Middelmann said yesterday that, nationwide, Air Berlin have carried 10 million passengers, five percent of the total number of travellers handled by Spanish airports over the course of this year.

The director of Spanish Airports (AENA), Javier Marin, said yesterday that Spain's airports have handled nearly nine percent more passengers this year. At the end of 2006, the national air passenger total was 193.6 million but this year, with two weeks remaining, the figure has already passed the 200 million mark.

Low cost airlines are continuing to fuel the growth in passengers, especially at the main tourists destinations airports like Palma - now the twelfth busiest airport in Europe.

Air Berlin's air transport hub in Palma has continued to grow with the airport now a key link in the airline's network of flights across Europe. easyJet has also enjoyed steady growth in passengers figures and Ryanair, which only moved into Palma this year, is continuing with its route expansion programme.

What the airport is also witnessing, primarily because of the greater offer of flights to a host of destinations at low prices, is that the resident population is travelling much more.

This Christmas, for example, London, Paris and Rome, all served by a number of low cost carriers, are the three top city destinations for Balearic residents while holiday home owners are popping back and forth to Majorca like never before.

Javier Marin said yesterday that, based on the latest market reports from Europe's main tour operators, air passengers figures will rise again in 2008.


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