Air Europa launches first no-frills between Palma and Gatwick

Spain's first no-frills airline takes off today, joining the battle for the Balearics skies on the Palma to Gatwick route and providing further proof that the British market is booming and forecast to grow further. Majorca-based airline Air Europa, Spain's first private airline, this morning becomes Spain's first no-frill carrier in a low cost market which, until now, has been dominated by UK airlines such as easyJet, Go and BMI-baby. Air Europa will initially be operating return flights on Monday and Sunday with ticket prices starting at 25 euros one way. As with all no-frills airlines, seats can be booked electronically on the airline's website and on board the aircraft, food and beverages will be sold. However, flights can also be booked at local travel agents. The fact that Air Europa has decided to launch its no frill service this winter is an indication that the passenger traffic between London and Palma this winter is expected to be busy. The no-frills revolution of the Balearics has not only made life much easier and more economical for holiday home owners and commuters, but also fuelled the rapid expansion of the independent holidaymaker. Last winter, 7.327 passengers flew into Palma with low cost airlines per week, while 12.680 arrived on charter airlines. However, over the past 12 month, an unsettled tourist industry has seen tour operators reduce charter flight operations while the no-frills airlines have increased their programmes with more UK airports being opened up and more, such as Cardiff and Leeds airports, due to be linked to Palma in the near future. Last winter, Palma was served by 49 British and German no-frill flights per week - not the busiest in Spain however, Malaga was the busiest no-frills airport handling nearly 130 flights per week and Barcelona 108. As it stands at present, there are at least 55 flights per week alone between the UK and Palma this winter, never mind the German no frills flight programme, which is expected to be smaller, down on last year. Now however, the Spanish airline industry is expected to follow Air Europa's lead as many of the private companies have been debating when to launch no-frills airlines in Spain for most of the summer. On the other hand, it may not be long before one of Europe's leading no-frills makes a move into the domestic market in Spain. When easyJet launched its Palma service (the airline now operates daily flights between Palma and Luton, Gatwick, Heathrow, Liverpool and Stansted with four a week to Bristol), airline bosses set a three-year target within which they planned to start linking up the Spanish airports to which they flew. That deadline has expired but it does not mean one of the big no-frills carriers is still planning such a move as competition in the low cost industry increases in Spain.

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