FACUA asks that the Ministry of Development consider flights to Spanish islands and autonomous cities a public service

The association stresses that facilitating air travel between mainland Spain and the Canaries, Balearics, Ceuta and Melilla is a question of territorial continuity.

FACUA asks that the Ministry of Development consider flights to Spanish islands and autonomous cities a public service

FACUA- Consumers in Action has sent a letter to the Ministry of Development demanding that it guarantee regional cohesion and mobility between mainland Spain and both the autonomous communities of the Balearic and Canary Islands, and the autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla. The letter asked that the Ministry do this by declaring flights to overseas territories as a Public Service Obligation (PSO), and defining its scope and contents, given the extent to which these territories depend on this type of transportation.

In the letter, the association laid out the demands they had already presented last July following the Proposición no de Ley (PNL, according to its initials in Spanish - a non-legislative motion), being passed by Spain's Congress’ Development Committee. The PNL set out to study the routes and frequency of flights between Spain's overseas territory and the mainland (which were to be established as a public service), adopt measures to ensure a reasonable price for flying these routes, and put a flat rate in place when it comes to excessive fares which are out of reach for most.

However, none of these propositions have been studied or brought about, and in the mean time, the Government has decided on continuing to provide fare subsidies (which have been increased) for residents of overseas territories, who only make up one group of those who require travel between the mainland and said territories. FACUA is still getting complaints from consumer groups affected by the situation, in particular from the Canarios sin alas (Canaries without Wings) association, which is made up of people with family and roots in the autonomous community, but who now live elsewhere.

The association stresses that free movement around the nation-state is a civil right, as established by the Spanish Constitution in article 19, and one which must be guaranteed by the state, in accordance with article 138.1 of the same legal document.

FACUA insists that actions and decisions regarding transport within Spain should not only ensure accessibility for touristic purposes, but also guarantee free movement within the State. Although EU regulation affords airlines licensed to operate in EU Member States the freedom to provide air services and set their own rates, it also allows States to partially restrict these freedoms by imposing something called Public Service Obligations (PSOs). PSOs are defined as "any obligation imposed on scheduled air services between an airport in the Community and an airport serving a peripheral or developing region, or on a less popular route, when said route is considered vital for the economic and social development of the region". This obligation will only be imposed when necessary, to guarantee services which meet certain requirements in terms of continuity, regularity, capacity and prices companies wouldn't accept if solely taking into account their own commercial interests.

The association believes that greater intervention is needed from Spain's Public Administration, in the interest of assuring proper connections between mainland Spain, and the islands and autonomous cities. The chosen method of guaranteeing territorial continuity up until now (that is, partially subsiding these flights for those living in overseas territories) is clearly insufficient in that it excludes a large part of the population who need to travel to these areas, but are not eligible for the discounts. What's more, up until now, this system has favoured price rises in airline tickets to these territories, as much for residents as non-residents, although the increase been particularly more prominent to the latter.