The number of flight connections between the United Kingdom and Palma's Son Sant Joan airport have risen by nearly 13 per cent already this year and the forecasts predict further growth over the summer, but more air traffic will mean more flight delays. European airline association and control bodies fear that this summer, British holidaymakers could be forced to endure the worst spate of flight delays ever. As the Bulletin reported last month, concerns are increasing over the level of air traffic and Palma airport authorities have already taken steps to try and ease the pressure off the weekends by offering British and German charter airlines incentives to fly midweek. However, only two weeks ago the busiest weekend of the year so far at Son Sant Joan was disrupted by industrial action by French air traffic controllers restricting access to Spanish air space. Last year, the total number of flights in European air space reached 8'447'781, according to EUROCONTROL, an increase of five per cent on 1999 and this year a similar, if not greater, increase is expected with one in three flights set to be hit by a delay. Twenty per cent of all delays are attributed to airports, but the bulk of the problem is because of congestion in the skies, bad management of air space and flight paths and small airlines unable to cope with technical problems. Already this year, 25 per cent of flights departing UK airports have suffered substantial delays and with the summer holidays about to start, delays to the top destinations, such as the Balearics which is currently the third most popular destination, are expected to get longer. According to the Association of European Airlines, a delay is a flight which takes off more than 15 minutes late and in February, 24 per cent of flights in the UK were delayed. The Association of European Airlines fears that, based on the rising trend of air delays since the start of the year, come July, nearly 40 per cent of flights and hundreds of thousands of air passengers will be hit by delays. During the summer, charter flights to Spanish destinations are some of the worst hit, not only because of air congestion, but also because of problems in air traffic in neighbouring European countries, in particular France, through which the majority of flights have to pass in order to enter the Spanish air space. Palma air traffic control has however drawn up contingency measures to combat the French.

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