Miguel Díaz’s daughter is 13 years old and lives in the Basque Country. Her father lives in Tenerife and that both can see each other when she has school holidays is a real economic sacrifice that has intensified with the pandemic. Flights have become more expensive in recent months, as reported by users and confirmed by the Government of the Canary Islands, which views this phenomenon with concern. However, the warning is not new since since the 75% discount on airline tickets for residents was approved in 2018, the Independent Authority for Fiscal Responsibility (AIReF) has verified that ticket prices have been increased. This report, furthermore, joins another from the National Markets and Competition Commission that also reached that conclusion. The rise experienced is between 20% and 40% in some cases, according to what was also indicated by the then Minister of Transport José Luis Ábalos, but it is a figure that for the Canaries without wings association is not entirely real since at Christmas, Semana Santa or summer, prices become impossible and according to his calculations they have risen by 60%.
Link the 75% discount to the income level or maintain it: studies that show that plane tickets are more expensive open the debate in the Canary Islands
Miguel Díaz is vice president of that association that has been denouncing this phenomenon for years and demanding measures that allow non-residents canaries to travel at more affordable prices. Another proposal, which was endorsed in the autumn of last year in the Canary Islands Parliament, is that children of separated parents can benefit from the 75% resident discount if one of the parents lives on an island. The agreement of the groups in the regional Chamber was to urge the state government to study this possibility in order to guarantee their right to grow up in contact with the parent who lives in the Archipelago. However, months have passed and the situation, marked by the instability of the pandemic and the reduction in connections in recent months, has been getting worse.
“My daughter has the right to come to her house in Tenerife,” she says. This summer the minor managed to travel to this island for five weeks, but the price of the ticket was an outlay of 360 euros for her family, to which 120 euros were added for the escort service, since she was a minor. “From the age of 12 it is voluntary, but I prefer to pay it so as not to risk that a flight from Bilbao to Madrid is diverted for some reason and my daughter is left alone at the airport,” he explains. The minor was also unable to visit her paternal family last Christmas. “Where do the prices have to go so that they consider it disproportionate? How much more will we have to pay?” problem has become entrenched.
More expensive flights for peninsular visitors
According to the latest data from Promotur, the Canarian Government’s public tourism company, 337,184 visitors came to the islands as a whole in June, 118,314 of which were peninsular and 218,870 foreigners. A figure that contrasts with those of 2019, when 1.1 million visitors arrived this month alone, 178,347 from the Peninsula and 949,020 foreigners. In the face of restrictions due to the pandemic, international tourism has collapsed, while the arrival of nationals is sometimes slowed down because it is not feasible for an entire family to travel to the Canary Islands. “Why is it cheaper for a person from Madrid to go to New York than to Tenerife?”, Wonders the vice president of Canaries without wings, who regrets that more obstacles are placed on national tourism.
At this point, the president of the Las Palmas Hospitality and Tourism Federation, José María Mañaricúa, recalls that the studies have reflected this increase in the price of plane tickets, which is higher in connections with Gran Canaria. He maintains that the experts hired by the Ministry of Transport will have to advise the Government on what measures to take since they are the ones who have the information. In fact, it should be remembered that in addition to the AIReF and Competition studies, one of the reports commissioned by the state government, that of the Pompeu Fabra University, was declared confidential information.
Beneficiaries are those with the highest income
“Does it make sense for both the first class ticket and the tourist ticket to be financed?” Was the question raised last year by the spokesman for the Canary Islands Government, Julio Pérez. The AIReF report detected a “very unbalanced” distribution. of the subsidy among the population, given that “half of the residents do not fly and, therefore, do not receive any help.” Another issue that the study reflected is that the 20% of residents with the highest incomes concentrate 50% of the total subsidy, while, on the contrary, 40% of the population with the lowest income receives 17% of the total subsidy in the case of the Canary Islands.
Negotiations in September
From the Government of the Canary Islands, both PSOE and Nueva Canarias, a party that managed to implement the 75% discount for residents, have insisted in recent years that it is an “untouchable” achievement. At the beginning of last year the Transport Summit was held in Gran Canaria precisely to seek solutions to the increase in the price of airline tickets. Then, it became clear the possibility of establishing maximum prices or of declaring these routes between the Archipelago and the Peninsula as a Public Service Obligation. This is precisely the option that Podemos defends. “When we proposed in Congress the OSP on the Canary-Peninsula route to limit prices, they called us communists and outdated. Time unfortunately proved us right and it is urgent that the Ministry of Transport, in the hands of the PSOE, act assuming that controlling prices avoids the waste of current public money, favors state tourism and guarantees the right to mobility of Canarian families ”, Highlighted the deputy Alberto Rodríguez recently in a statement. From the party of Casimiro Curbelo (ASG), who currently leads the Ministry of Tourism, it is also requested that this possibility be valued, although they remember that “a PSO would limit the operational capacity, since it would be a single company that would operate the routes established ”. Likewise, the training reports that it is more expensive to fly between islands.
From the Ministry of Public Works, Transport and Housing they have explained to this writing that in September the conversations with the Ministry will be resumed to work on the objectives set at the Summit on Transport and Mobility, which have been conditioned by the development of the pandemic. From this area directed by Sebastián Franquis (PSOE) they admit that in recent months, with the reactivation of the sector, a rise in prices has been detected again, so the counselor has already shown his concern to the Government of Spain. The conversations with the Ministry will be resumed in order to study various options for the regulation of these prices, among which for the first time is the possibility of establishing the Public Service Obligation in trips between the Peninsula and the Archipelago, a “A possibility that was contemplated in the Transport Summit and that, now, the Ministry shuffles among various tools that we are proposing from the Government of the Canary Islands. From the central Executive they raise the possibility of studying the OSP, once this context of crisis is overcome and the sector is reactivated with total normality “, points out the counselor.
Both the report of the National Markets and Competition Commission and that of AIReF already proposed recommendations. The first advised, among other issues, to show the total price of the ticket together with the discount and precisely one of the measures adopted last year was that the airlines did not show the resident discount until the last step. However, many airlines continue to provide this option early in the process. AIReF proposed replacing the current discount with a fixed-amount subsidy for each of the routes and studying mechanisms to achieve “a more equal distribution of the subsidy by income levels of public aid for mobility in extra-peninsular territories.” However, both suggested a review and analysis of this discount. From the Canarios sin alas association, for its part, they have already requested a meeting with the new Minister of Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda, Raquel Sánchez.