Even with the discount the cost of flights can seem excessive. | Jaume Morey

The cost of airline tickets from Balearic airports to and from the mainland over the festive season has in some instances trebled. While there have been price hikes for the holiday period in early December (the two national holidays for the Constitution and the Immaculate Conception - 6 and 8 December), they are obviously more pronounced for the Christmas to Three Kings fortnight.

The president of the Balearic travel agents association, Antoni Abrines, is decrying the fact that despite the 50% residents' discount, the chief beneficiaries are the airlines which cash in on the seasonal demand.

Regional transport minister Marc Pons was asked about these increased prices during the meeting last week with officials from the Canaries, Ceuta and Melilla. He said that nothing could be done about them. The airlines operate in a free market and apply the prices they wish. There was a similar reaction from the Canaries, Ceuta and Melilla transport representatives.

At present, some 80% of seats are sold for the Christmas period, but the remaining 20% are unsold. This, notes Abrines, is what happened last year. The prices "skyrocket" as the festive season draws closer, especially for flights just prior to Christmas Eve. The tickets can remain unsold as, even with the discount, travellers won't pay "abusive" prices. But if they do, as is the case with all flight discounts, it is the Spanish government which picks up half of the tab.