The queues for security at the airport were the biggest story of the week. | MDB


Palma Airport security control "chaos"

The tourism season got under way. Or did it? We kept hearing that the number of Easter international flights was well down on last year because the airlines' tourism season hadn't started - they were still on their winter schedules rather than summer. As far as security personnel at Palma Son Sant Airport were concerned, the season clearly had started, as it was time for some industrial action. Or was it?

Were security staff staging a work-to-rule or were lengthy queues at security controls all down to a lack of organisation? The committee for security staff employed by the contractor, Trablisa, maintained that it was the latter and that both the company and the airport management were to blame. "It's easier to blame the workers than to admit their mistakes."

The so-called chaos at the airport first grabbed the headlines on Friday last week. Passengers were apparently fainting, there were scuffles, there were missed flights. The airports authority, Aena, said that delays were no longer than fifteen minutes. Passengers reckoned that they were up to an hour.

What was it all about? The workers' committee seemingly asked for solutions to issues regarding a lack of personnel and demands in respect of training in February. There was no response. The committee denied that there was a go-slow.

As a consequence of scenes at the airport, which didn't last all day as they were only over specific periods, tour operators started issuing warnings and airlines advised passengers to check in three hours before their flights. Compensation demands were said to have "surged", which they may well have done but are unlikely to get very far where the airlines are concerned. The delays weren't strictly anything to do with them, but one airline - Vueling - felt it needed to do something and offered passengers on fully booked departures a hefty incentive if they changed to alternative flights.

The Consubal consumers association in the Balearics said that it was studying claims against the airport management and Trablisa but accepted that these might be difficult because the delays had been caused by working slowly, which the workers' committee denied was the case.

The death of an airport security worker

A former Trablisa employee at the airport, 64-year-old Hermina B.B., died in 2019 five days after an incident when she told a German tourist that he couldn't return to baggage reclaim; he had left the terminal building to have a smoke. There was an argument, he pushed Hermina, she fell and fractured a femur. Suffering from an underlying heart condition, she passed away at Son Espases due to complications during surgery. The tourist will shortly go on trial, the Prosecutor's Office calling for three years for reckless homicide.

Airlines cashing in on Cup Final flights

In other airport-related news, airlines have been accused of taking advantage of the residents' discount by charging, in reality, up to 1,000 euros for flights to Seville for the Copa del Rey final; Real Mallorca play Athletic Club (Bilbao) on April 6. With the discount, the price is only 250 euros (the subsidy is paid by the Spanish government), and so below what travel agencies were going to charge for charter flights before they started cancelling them because they were being undercut.

The agencies complain that this is unfair competition, pointing out that two airlines - Iberia and Ryanair - have scheduled flights for a route that they don't normally operate. Their flights have therefore been organised for a specific situation, the Cup Final.

"I neither traffic drugs nor launder money"

Back in the courts, and the story of the major drugs operation two weeks ago has continued to make news. Carlos Cortés, aka 'El Charly', the president of the Balearic federation of gypsy associations, who was arrested and remanded in custody as a result of Operation Checkmate, has petitioned the court to be released on bail. The court is considering the request.

El Charly, who is accused of drugs trafficking and money laundering, has been speaking about his arrest. "The whole thing is a nightmare." He flatly denies the charges and has vowed to prove his innocence. Part of the Guardia Civil evidence against him involves what he says are "misinterpreted" tapped phone conversations. These referred to deliveries of food to needy families. The Guardia believed they were code for drugs. Or so El Charly maintains.

Meanwhile, Palma town hall is to take action against what has been variously described as a bunker, a fort and a small palace on the unremarkable C. Teix in the district of La Soledad. This is the home of drugs baron Pablo Campos Maya, 'El Pablo'. He wasn't arrested during Operation Checkmate as he was already in prison, but the bunker was raided. The discovery was astonishing, a luxurious development created by knocking through ten adjoining properties.

The town hall's action is for breaches of planning permission, but other questions arise regarding how El Pablo had been able to develop this small palace ever since the 1990s.

Two deaths after falls from buildings

With the season getting under way, thoughts naturally turn to tourist anti-social behaviour. There has been success in Magalluf with stamping out 'balconing', but it remains an issue in Playa de Palma, which is the focus for some of the town hall's new civic ordinance that is due to be introduced by the end of May.

Falls from buildings have only rarely been because of balconing, and this was tragically confirmed by two fatalities in the space of a matter of hours last weekend. On Friday night, an 82-year-old man fell to his death from an apartment building in Cala Millor. On Saturday morning, around 8.15, the body of a 73-year-old man was discovered in the parking area of an apartment building in Magalluf.