Passengers at Palma's Son Sant Joan airport. | N. Rincon


Air Berlin’s decision to close its hub at Palma’s Son Sant Joan airport will lead to a loss of 600,000 passengers on account of connecting flights to the mainland being scrapped.

The airline is to remove eight routes from its Palma schedule, including the most profitable Bilbao connection. These routes are to be absorbed by other airlines and will be in time for the summer season: from 26 March, Air Europa, Ryanair, Vueling, Iberia Express and Air Nostrum will be taking over the operation of one or more of them.

The airports authority Aena calculates that the 600,000 passengers who had been passing through the Air Berlin hub represent 1.2% of total passenger numbers at Son Sant Joan. For Air Berlin, though, the hub was no longer profitable, especially once German competitors started to fly direct to Spanish mainland airports, which they did some eighteen months ago, and so were going to the same destinations as Air Berlin was flying to via the Palma hub. Air Berlin is now also planning on flying direct.

The regional government is confident that the loss of these connections will be amply compensated for by other airlines, especially the Spanish ones, and will not involve an increase in prices.

German airlines, meanwhile, are increasing their frequencies to Majorca for this year’s main tourism season. Though there were one or two blips with tourist numbers from Germany last year, the demand for Majorca remains very high. The greater concern for the regional government, as ever, is seasonality and so therefore connections out of the main season.

Passenger traffic at Son Sant Joan has developed in such a way that Air Berlin has been the main airline, followed by Ryanair, Air Europa and easyJet. For this coming season, five UK airlines - British Airways, easyJet, Jet2, Monarch and Thomson - and Aer Lingus and Ryanair from Ireland are all set to increase passenger numbers substantially.

And today, the latest package holiday sales figures from the United Kingdom suggest business with the Balearics is up 28 per cent on this time last year. This shows further growth since the beginning of December, and the growth is forecast to continue as the British industry snaps up every spare bed and airport slot in the Balearics, especially Majorca.

Despite the loss of Air Berlin’s hub passengers, Aena believes that the airport will still beat records for monthly passenger traffic this year.