- Passenger numbers: 11.8 million, -2.9% year-on-year;
- Cargo volume: 48,673 tonnes, -4.1%;
- Aircraft movements: 138,444, -6.2%.
AENA announces 3% decrease in Jan-2012 pax, cargo down 4%
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Spain aviation and LCCs: 2016 traffic above pre-crisis levels, but capacity surplus unsustainable
After suffering a protracted recession in 2009 to 2013, Spain's air travel market at last looks set to exceed its pre-crisis passenger numbers in 2016, albeit with something of an airline capacity glut. During the recession traffic was actually remarkably robust, thanks to buoyant inbound tourism and the growth of LCCs.
Europe's third largest aviation market by seats is dominated by short haul, with long haul strongly skewed towards trans-Atlantic routes (North and South) – principally operated by a resurgent Iberia and Air Europa. For long haul connections elsewhere Spain relies on other European hubs, although Iberia has re-entered Asia Pacific with Madrid-Shanghai, and plans a Tokyo service. The superconnectors have yet to make a big impression in Spain, but this may change.
Ryanair has been the largest airline by seats in Spain since 2013, the result of its own growth and also of second ranked Iberia's restructuring. IAG's other Spanish airline – the fast-growing Vueling – has been the country's number three ranked airline since 2010, pushing Air Europa into fourth. Madrid has remained Spain's largest airport, but Barcelona's growth has outpaced Madrid's. Spain's airport operator AENA is benefiting from double-digit growth this year, but airlines are suffering yield declines.
IAG plans long haul low cost from Barcelona and mulls a new dedicated brand
IAG has detailed plans to start long haul low cost airline flights from Barcelona to the US, Latin America and Asia in Jun-2017. The project involves two Airbus A330s and will create up to 250 new jobs. Tickets for the first destinations are expected to be on sale by Feb-2017 or Mar-2017.
One of the key outstanding issues is which IAG airline brand will operate the flights. In an interview published on 22-Dec-2016 by La Vanguardia, the widely read and respected Barcelona newspaper, CEO Willie Walsh said that IAG may create a new brand for the project. British Airways, Iberia or even Aer Lingus – which has the lowest unit cost among IAG's long haul airlines – are also possibilities. However, Vueling "will continue in its strategy of European flights".
Among Europe's big three legacy airline groups, IAG is the only one not to have announced long haul low cost plans previously, although its LCC strategy has been the most successful in short/medium haul. Plans by the LCC Norwegian to launch long haul routes from Barcelona in 2017 may have had a catalytic effect on IAG's thinking. In the past IAG has been proactive in creating new platforms, while this move appears a little more reactive.