Costa del Sol News - 14th September 2006

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Week 14th September - 20th September 2006


Flights to UK ‘nearly free’ as low-cost airlines compete to offer best deals

By Dave Jamieson and Oliver McIntyre

Passengers are the big winners of an emerging battle between low-cost airlines in Spain as newcomer Clickair, Iberia’s low-cost offshoot, enters the increasingly crowded market. Clickair took off on the Internet last Thursday by selling 20,000 tickets online in its first 10 hours. Thousands tried to access its website when it opened at 9.30, rushing to get their hands on the 100,000 flights advertised at just five euros.
The arrival of Clickair appears to have sparked a price war among other low-cost carriers, with Ireland’s Ryanair leading the charge. It offered four million free tickets on flights from a number of UK airports to a host of destinations throughout Europe, with travellers paying only taxes, fees and charges, many totalling between £10 and £15.
Spanair joined the scramble to offer cut-rate flights, announcing tickets for just one euro plus taxes on its new domestic routes, including Madrid-Granada, Madrid-Almería and Barcelona-Valencia, as well as its international Madrid-Stuttgart route.
Iberia’s regional carrier Air Nostrum announced tickets starting at 10 euros each way on its new Málaga-Alicante route, which will begin operating October 29.
Meanwhile, easyJet has announced it is investing 100m euros in the creation of a Spanish hub based at Madrid’s Barajas airport. Its introduction of a slate of new domestic and international routes is expected to further heat up the low-cost fare wars in Spain and potentially impact the entire air travel industry here. “Thirty per cent of all flights in Spain are low-cost, but we believe this figure is sure to rise,” said Arnaldo Muñonz, easyJet’s chief for Southern Europe, in a recent Times article.
While Britons – who make an estimated 16 million trips to Spain each year – certainly benefit from the low-cost price cutting, it may be domestic travellers in Spain who gain the most. It is expected that easyJet’s new Madrid presence, along with increasing competition from Ryanair, Vueling, Spanair Air Europa and others, could help drive down prices on domestic routes which, long dominated by formerly state-run Iberia, have in some cases remained more expensive than international flights.
Ironically, it was Iberia, with its launch of Clickair, that helped set off this most recent wave of super-cheap fare offers. The new airline starts operating on October 1 with a flight from its base in Barcelona to Sevilla, and will also provide links with Paris, Rome and Zurich as well as Valencia. The company will begin flying with three Airbus A-320 aircraft and expects to expand to a fleet of 20 during next year. By 2008 it expects to have 30 planes carrying 10 million passengers a year.

Meanwhile, British low-cost carrier has opened a ticket office at Málaga airport. The company operates flights to Leeds and Manchester, and from March next year will start a service to Blackpool, as well as flying into nine other Spanish airports from various cities in the UK. While states that 97 per cent of its reservations are made via the Internet, it says the new office in Málaga will be available to those travellers who do not have access to a computer or have difficulty using one.

Spain debates congestion charges

London model considered as possible solution to big-city traffic

By Dave Jamieson

THE PROSPECT OF PAYING TO DRIVE INTO THE CENTRE OF SPAIN’S LARGEST CITIES IS TO BE DEBATED THIS WEEKEND BY SPAIN’S GOVERNING PARTY, THE SOCIALIST PSOE. The topic is amongst those due to be tackled by the party at their three-day annual conference which begins tomorrow, and is one of the measures in its draft manifesto for the local elections in May.
London and Rome already operate the so-called congestion charges, while Frankfurt and Cologne plan to introduce them on January 1, but observers say it seems unlikely that Spain will follow suit. A similar idea put forward by the Ministry of the Environment two years ago made little progress and the public’s dislike of toll motorways has already led the PSOE to reduce charges on some Andalucían roads. The Town Hall in Madrid has gone so far as to roundly condemn the latest proposals, describing them as “solemnly absurd.”However, proponents of the scheme argue that excessive traffic in Spain’s cities damages historic buildings, inhibits efficient public transport and creates a damaging environment for inhabitants. They admit that the proposal is controversial but add that each city would be allowed to choose whether or not it needed to introduce a congestion charge, and to adapt the scheme to its needs.

Others agree that action is needed but say that the way forward lies not with congestion charges, but with more bus and cycle lanes, penalties for private cars carrying just one passenger, a ban on deliveries at peak times, and greener public transport systems.
A study from Sweden published in June showed that the introduction of congestion charges in Stockholm reduced city centre traffic by up to 25 per cent, cut pollution by up to 14 per cent and increased the use of public transport by 4.5 per cent.

Tarifa tops Cádiz hotel performance

Arcos reports major drop

By David Eade

The average hotel occupancy in the province during August was 91.61 per cent, slightly up on the 91.04 per cent recorded in 2005. According to the Cádiz Hotel and Catering Federation (HORECA), the occupancy for this month is expected to be 75.69 per cent.The hotels of Tarifa and Chipiona achieved the province’s highest August occupancy levels, at 97.56 and 97.45 per cent, respectively. They were followed by Cádiz city, with 95.89 per cent, and Conil, at 95.75 per cent. Also achieving high occupancy rates were Zahara de los Atunes (94.77 per cent), Sanlúcar (94.64 per cent), Chiclana (94.21 per cent), La Línea (92.25 per cent) and Rota (92.10 per cent).

The lowest figures were reported by Jerez, Algeciras and Arcos, with 81.49, 79.83 and 78.52 per cent, respectively, though Jerez did achieve a 7.96 per cent rise over August of last year. However, Arcos suffered badly, having achieved 90.56 occupancy in August of last year, nearly 12 percentage points higher than this August.

One less for the road

New points-based driver’s licence changes drinking habits

By Dave Jamieson

More people appear to be choosing to consume alcohol at home, rather than in bars and restaurants, to avoid the possibility of being penalised with the loss of between four and six points if stopped and prosecuted for drink-driving.
The first statistics to be published since the change indicate that sales of alcohol in bars, hotels and restaurants have fallen by seven per cent, while sales in supermarkets have risen by five per cent. Campaigns by the authorities against drink driving and a rise in prices are also believed to be contributory factors in the change. Sales of soft drinks and mineral water are reported to be continuing the rise which they have shown in the last 12 months.
New tobacco laws are also believed to have influenced alcohol sales, with substantial falls noted in those establishments which have banned smoking. Reductions are exactly equal to those noted in Italy last year when similar restrictions were introduced there and caused gin sales to fall by up to 15 per cent, whisky by up to 11 per cent and vodka by up to 19 per cent.

Many Málaga businesses have reported that diners will now order wine by the glass, rather than by the bottle, in order to control alcohol intake more closely, while some restaurants have introduced plastic bags in which wine left over after the meal can be taken home rather than finished at the table. The Málaga Association of Catering Businesses is, however, disapproving of the practice of customers bringing their own wine, with the establishment charging only for opening and serving it. Their president Rafael Prado described it as “counter-productive” for proprietors.
Other schemes, including nominating a non-drinker for the evening who will later drive the others home, have also become more popular. The designated-driver approach is favoured by police authorities.

Death stabbing in Plaza de la Libertad

By David Eade

San Pedro’s Plaza de la Libertad, a popular weekend venue for late night drinking and partying that has earned a reputation for fights, last weekend became a murder scene.
The victim was a 29-year-old man who was allegedly stabbed by a 19-year-old youth in the entrance to a local bar for reasons not yet known. It is claimed that the aggressor left the bar and went to his home to get a knife and then returned to attack the man, stabbing him three times in the back and once in the stomach. The incident occurred at about 02.15 Saturday night. The victim, a resident of Estepona, was declared dead at the Hospital Clínico in Málaga.About an hour after the stabbing, the attacker, accompanied by his mother, went to the local police station to give himself up. It has been reported that the youth had been undergoing psychiatric treatment but this has not been confirmed. When he appeared before the court, family members and friends of the deceased confronted the police in an attempt to attack the alleged killer. He is being detained in prison and his lawyer said he faces charges of murder and assault.

Accord reached for Vélez tranvía extension

By Dave Jamieson

After three months of discussion and debate, a group of Vélez-Málaga residents has reached an agreement with the town hall over the tranvía extension project. People in Calle Magallanes, where an extension to the light-rail system is presently under construction, had expressed concerns about potential damage to nearby buildings. They also disagreed with the layout of the tracks, saying the proximity of the tram’s path to a pedestrian zone would be dangerous.
The agreement reached with the Town Hall will see the lines displaced by just 60 centimetres, but this will widen the area for pedestrians to a minimum of 2.2 metres. It also formally establishes that there will be no structural risk to neighbouring buildings, either during the construction phase or once the tranvía is in operation, an assurance which was demanded by residents. They have further been guaranteed that any accidental damage which occurs during the project will be paid for.The second phase of the tranvía is due to be finished in January. It will extend the line from the present terminus to the former railway station. Meanwhile, the first phase, which links Vélez with Torre del Mar, is still not operational, although Vélez’s councillor for transport, Antonio López, said last week that the final adjustments to the track would be completed within a few days.

Benalmádena PGOU consultation extended

NEWS Staff Reporter

A recent meeting of Benalmádena council has unanimously approved the extension of the comment and suggestion period before the drafting of the new local development plan (PGOU). Local people, businesses and interested parties now have an additional month to state their views, with the consultation period not closing October 15 instead of September 10.Mayor Enrique Bolín stated that the extension is aimed at getting the largest number possible of local people and interested groups to participate in the process and put forward their ideas and suggestions. Documentation detailing the comments and suggestions can be presented to the Town Hall or sent via the web page ( So far, 30 suggestions have been made by residents and local groups.

Uncovered vaccination stings parent's wallets

Parents have to pay out of pocket for jab recommended by paediatricians

By Oliver McIntyre

Despite the fact that Spain’s Paediatrics Society recommends the pneumococcal vaccine – commonly known in Spain as Prevenar – for all children, the Andalucía Health Service (SAS) does not include it in its routine vaccination schedule. This means parents who want their children to receive the shot – a 75-euro jab that must be administered four times between age two months and two years – must buy the vaccine themselves. SAS covers the cost of the vaccine only for those children considered at especially high risk for the diseases it protects against, which include pneumonia and meningitis. But in the roughly five years since the vaccine became available here, most parents have begun to heed their paediatrician’s advice to have it administered to their children despite the significant out-of-pocket expense, according to doctors.

The Paediatrics Society argues that the pneumococcal vaccine should be added to the routine vaccination schedule, meaning all children would receive it, free of charge. It cites other countries where the vaccine is already routine, including the UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Austria and Belgium.

Black week for domestic violence

Multiple deaths and a serious stab wound in three separate cases

By Dave Jamieson

A 74-year-old man in the Granada city district of El Zaidín is believed to have fatally stabbed his wife and then attempted suicide. Francisca Fernández, 76, suffered three wounds to her thorax and was rushed to Granada’s Hospital Ruiz de Alda but died less than an hour after the attack. Her husband, Rafael Sánchez, was initially reported to be very seriously ill, but later left the intensive care unit showing signs of improvement. He was ordered by a Granada court to be detained without bail but within two days suffered a heart attack and died. Shocked neighbours expressed their surprise, describing the couple as “well matched” although Rafael had been depressed following a recent hernia operation.
Two days after the Granada death, a 35-year-old woman was found dead in Almería with her throat slit. It is believed that the victim, Khadija Nejjar, who had suffered 15 stab wounds, had been dead for some days before her body was discovered. Police investigating the case at Roquetas del Mar immediately began searching for her 40-year-old husband, who was detained the next day at Vicar. The couple, both Moroccan, had lived in the area for six months and had two small daughters who were studying in their home country. Neighbours believed the mother had travelled back to Morocco with them at the end of the summer holidays, so did not consider her absence suspicious.

In the same week, a 29-year-old man was arrested in Málaga, accused of stabbing the partner of a former girlfriend. The 44-year-old victim received a knife wound which perforated his liver and stomach and came within two centimetres of fatally entering his heart. He was described as very seriously ill in the intensive care unit at the city’s Hospital Clinico Universitario. The detained man is reported to have arrived at the couple’s home and forced his way in before the alleged attack. His 27-year-old former companion, now eight months pregnant by her new partner, said she had known the attacker since she was 17 and they had two children together, now aged nine and four. She alleged he had mistreated her throughout the six-year relationship. Since their separation he had been allowed to see the children, witnesses to last week’s attack, every 15 days.

Free bus tickets for Nerja’s elderly

NEWS Staff Reporter

Nerja plans to provide free bus travel to older people in the town. At present, the elderly can buy books of 10 vouchers which give them a 50 per cent discount on the flat-rate fare of 70 cents charged on local bus routes, but last week’s announcement from the town hall indicates that free journeys are on the way.
Transport councillor, Francisco Adriano Fernández, said that in the last year, 2,000 of the voucher books had been issued and he felt sure that with the new initiative in place, there would be an increase in the use of Nerja’s municipal transport system. The proposal, which the town hall says will “improve quality of life,” must now be approved by the Council before implementation.

Great and famous flock to Ronda bullring

By David Eade

Ronda’s famous fair week and its accompanying bullfights hit the society pages at the weekend. Not only was it the 50th anniversary of the ‘Goyesca’ bullfight, but this year the celebrated matador Francisco Rivera Ordóñez had chosen the occasion as the ‘alternativa’ – or official graduation to full-fledged matador – for his brother, Cayetano.
Ronda resident Jesús Gómez told the Costa del Sol News that the country’s top politicians and celebrities flocked to the town on the Tajo for the event. However, he complained that tickets for this year’s bullfight involving the famous brothers were sold out weeks in advance and black-market tickets were being offered at over 1,000 euros each. Nonetheless, he and his wife went to the Alameda park next to the bullring, as Francisco had organised large television screens to be erected so that nobody in the town would miss his brother’s ‘alternativa’.
It was expected that Spain’s Princess Doña Elena de Borbón would be present, but the royal box was empty due to a scheduling conflict. The Duchess of Alba was in attendance with her family, which was no surprise given that Francisco’s girlfriend, Blanca Martínez de Irujo, is her granddaughter. Three government ministers – those for Foreign Affairs, Public Works and Culture – were also among the crowd, as was US Ambassador Eduardo Aguirre, Málaga mayor Francisco de la Torre and numerous business bigwigs and media personalities.For the record, Cayetano received two ears on his ‘alternativa’ bull and four in all. The bullfight closed with both brothers being carried on shoulders from the ring in an emotional end to the annual ‘corrida’ in honour of legendary matador Pedro Romero.

Sweltering summer on the costa

Both high and low temperatures were unusually warm

By Oliver McIntyre

Both the high and low temperatures registered in the province of Málaga were significantly above the 60-year average, and in some cases were higher even than the figures for last summer, considered one of the hottest on record.
Based on National Weather Institute data for Málaga city, July, this summer’s hottest month, showed an average high of 31.9 degrees C, more than two degrees higher than the historic norm and hotter than last July, when the average was 31.4 degrees.
August’s average high was 30.8 degrees, a bit less that one degree higher than the historic average for the month. On three days during August the mercury rose above the 40-degree mark, including the first day of the month, which, at 42 degrees, was the hottest day of the year. The last time Málaga saw an August day that hot was in 1988.
From the official beginning of summer on June 21, there were a total of 10 days with temps over 35 degrees and four days that broke 40 degrees.

Those without air conditioning may have spent some sleepless nights, as daily lows were also higher than usual. On August 13 the temperature never dropped below 25.2 degrees, some five degrees higher than the historic average low for the month. July saw lows above 22 degrees on 10 occasions and in June there were four days when the mercury never dipped under 21 degrees, four degrees above the average low for the month.

Ten thousand pets abandoned each year

By David Eade

If the average resident of Andalucía was asked if they would they abandon their pet, the answer would likely be a resounding “no.” But statistics show that people in the region abandon thousands of animals every year.
In Málaga province alone, around 10,000 animals are abandoned annually, according to the Animal and Plant Protection Society. It says many people keep their pets over the winter months, but when summer arrives the animals are dumped them in large numbers as their owners take off for holidays. Pet purchases peak at the Christmas season, when many homes welcome a puppy or kitten, and it is not until later that the reality of keeping and caring for an animal sets in, says the group.
This summer the animal protection society alone has rescued 203 dogs, 88 during July and another 115 in August. These figures do not take into account cats, which are typically dumped at double the rate of dogs. Both cats and dogs are typically abandoned in the country or on wasteland; many end up run over by traffic.There are other reasons for animals being abandoned, such as in the case of the Podenco Andaluz, one of the most popular dogs for hunters. When the dogs become too old to use in the field, they are often simply abandoned, or sometimes killed. Unwanted Podenco puppies are also sometimes dumped, and the society estimates that such a fate falls on around 3,000 of this breed each year.

Irishwoman named Resident of the Year

By Dave Jamieson

Land around Torremolinos’ Conference Centre, or Palacio de Congresos, is to be developed with a commercial centre and five-star hotel. The Town Council has given the go-ahead for the firm Iel España to press ahead with its project, which officials say will create around 3,000 new jobs. The Socialist (PSOE) group at the Town Hall voted against the proposal, however, favouring instead plans for the construction of low-cost housing on the site.
The town’s mayor, Pedro Fernández Montes, said it would be “the best commercial centre in Spain,” without precedent in the area, and would present a spectacular entrance to Torremolinos for traffic entering from the motorway. He also assured councillors that the project, which he described as “pioneering,” was already included in the town’s local development plan (PGOU). If the developers fail to achieve a five-star rating for the hotel, a clause in the contract will require them to pay the Town Hall three million euros, plus interest, for each missing star.A small number of residential properties are to be included in the project, with the local plusvalía tax generated by them to be split between the Town Hall and the developer.

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