March 31, 2006:
Mallorca is a destination offering sun, sea and sand, and its temperate climate and stunning scenery make it a hot spot for tourists coming from across Europe. Most visitors to the island arrive at Palma de Mallorca Airport, which is located 8km from the city.
Despite a post-September 11 dip in 2002, the airport's passenger numbers have risen steadily by more than one million per year. Last year it saw more than 22.2 million passengers, compared with 20.4 million in 2004 and 19.1 million in 2003.
According to the airport's statistics, most of the passengers arriving at the airport are German, followed by Spanish and UK nationals.
Housed in the dedicated General Aviation Terminal, which openedin 2003, Mallorcair has proven to
be a popular choice among owners and operators of business aircraft
The company has been voted best FBO in our reader's survey for two years running (see EBAN's February issue), something which comes as no surprise to manager Miguel Mudoy. "We're a small FBO and we know
that the likes of Signature and TAG Aviation are very good, but the customers vote from their hearts and it's very good for us."
The company has benefited from a recent surge of business aviation traffic coming to Palma, a testament to the strength of the industry at present. "We are also seeing more heavy jets," said duty officer Alfonso Calvo. "They are coming here more and are getting bigger every time. When I started here in 2000, we handled a lot of CitationJets, and nowadays there are more Excels, Hawkers, Global Express and Gulfstreams."
With the summer approaching, Palma is bracing itself for a sharp rise in traffic, as business jets carrying passengers from mainland Europe flock to the island. "Most of our traffic is between June and September, especially at weekends. Sometimes winter can be very quiet.
"Most visitors come to Mallorca for holidays; they have boats and there are some resorts. The Germans tends to have houses here, so they come here to spend their free time," said Calvo. "Clients come to Mallorcair because of the personal relationships with our staff, as we give them a very personal service and they can find us any time they want.
"We offer handling and anything the customers require. We have improved our lounge for pilots and passengers with positions for internet access, coffee and we now have new vehicles."
Calvo states that the only difficulty the company encounters is with fuelling. "Air Berlin has a big operation, using Palma as a hub and making flights three times per day, so it can be a little difficult to get fuel, though we haven't had any big delays."
From April through October, Mallorcair's facility is staffed 24 hours a day. In the low season, the FBO opens at 7am and closes at midnight, though it can handle aircraft at any time.
"We are not here 24 hours but any time they call, we always answer the phone and we will be here. Sometimes they will just show up and we know they're coming because of the CFMU (Central Flow Management Unit) application," he said.
'It is one of the most important airports for charter business'
- Antonio Martinez, Helisureste
Assistair, another resident of Palma de Mallorca Airport, provides handling and FBO services, including aircraft and passenger handling, flight planning, weather information and catering services.
The company arranges airport slots in Palma and can arrange slots and aircraft handling services at other airports, if required. Last year the firm elected to work with a vip caterer to offer clients a greater range of food and beverages. Another new addition to Assistair's service offering is the ability to print out worldwide newspapers for any day.
The company operates a fleet of vip vans, which can collect passengers and crew from the aircraft and transport them to the FBO. "We want to develop our own vehicle transportation outside the airport, so we can serve all of the the clients' needs, as we currently contract other companies for transportation outside of the airport," said general manager Nicolas Mateu.
"If we can do that ourselves, I think it will be good for our service, as one person will collect the passengers from the aircraft and also take them to the city."
The company began operating in Palma, though it has since expanded into mainland Spain with bases in Barcelona and Valencia. Like Mallorcair, the company states that there is very little traffic in the winter, as most visitors come to the island in the summer.
"Palma Airport is quite big and we see a lot of different aircraft from many countries, which is very interesting," said Mateu. "Private aviation in Spain and Palma is growing, so more aircraft are coming through. In Spain the number of big jet owners is growing very fast."
Mateu reports that many people are attracted to the four important harbours in Palma, as many clients have yachts moored along the island's coastline. "During the summer we see lots of German, English and Spanish visitors. They work all year long and spend a week or two on their boats here." Golf is one of the major attractions for mid-season visitors.
Assistair believes that what sets it apart from other handling agents on the island is its personal service. "We know our clients very well and we don't have to ask a lot of things - we know what they want. If they
have been here before, we can arrange most things without asking what is required."
'Private aviation in Spain and Palma is growing, so more aircraft are coming through'
- Nicolas Mateu, Assistair
Assistair's owner and managing director Catherine Gaisenband believes that the biggest challenge for business aviation on the island is to have more business aircraft owned and operated in Palma.
Gaisenband states that operations in the area are split about 60-40 in favour of aerotaxi over private aviation. By comparison, she says, Barcelona sees significantly more air taxi flights, with very few
In addition to its rotary-wing fleet, Helicopteros del Sureste (Helisureste) operates a Citation II, King Air 350 and three King air 200s, one of which is based in Palma de Mallorca as an air ambulance.
The company may base another King Air 200 or Citation II in Palma to meet the demand for charter flights.
"The air ambulance aeroplane is quite busy, as we are working for the Regional Government and fly for them 24 hours a day," said commercial director Antonio Martinez. "The charter aeroplane is more busy in the summer season, as the touristic activity on the island increases."
The benefits of operating in Palma are clear for Helisureste - the airport is close to its headquarters and maintenance centre in Alicante, and if necessary the company can serve other key Spanish locations like Valencia or Malaga with no significant ferry charges.
"It is one of the most important airports for charter business," said Martinez. "A lot of vips have second homes or holiday homes in Mallorca. Ibiza is some minutes away and it is another important location that can be well served from Palma."
Typical clients include businessmen with offices in mainland Europe. "They usually have home offices in Palma but need to move inside Europe quickly."
Helisureste believes that the attractions of the island are clear. "Mallorca has a full package of sea, sun, nice hotels and port facilities, nice landscape and good weather, calm places to visit and excellent restaurants. It is very well linked with Europe and close to all the major cities."
Helisureste is continuing the expansion plan it started some years ago. Its helicopter branch, in particular, is highly active. The company is getting state-of-the-art helicopters like the Agusta Westland A139 and the A109S Grand in HEMS configuration, adding to its extensive fleet of more than 65 helicopters, most of which are twin engine models.