AENA employees announced strike action during Christmas over the Spanish Government's plans for partial privatisation of the airport authority (Typically Spanish/AFP, 02-Dec-2010). AENA will decide on the exact dates and form of protest after the Constitution Bank Holiday on 09-Dec-2010 after the CCOO, UGT and USO unions hold a meeting with members of the USCA air traffic controllers union. Members of the AENA Board have described the announcement of the granting of concessions for the private management of Madrid Barajas and Barcelona El Prat Airports as amounting to "bumping off AENA". SEPLA union pilots meanwhile have postponed their decision on possible strike action until after a meeting with the Ministry for Development today (03-Dec-2010). SEPLA has however stated the pilots' strike will not coincide with "key dates" of the Christmas period and will "do as little harm as possible to air travellers". The Association has criticised the "repeated failure" of the Transport Ministry to ease pilots' working hours, which it has claimed are above maximum thresholds allowed under European law.
Spanish pilots and AENA staff plan Dec-2010 strikes
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The legal framework prevents tariff increases before 2025, but the outcome was in contrast with the Spanish airport group's own proposal to freeze charges. Strong traffic growth of 11% to an all time high level of 230 million passengers in 2016 may have influenced the regulator's decision.
In response, AENA has decided to remove an incentive mechanism which rewards airlines for traffic growth with airport charge discounts. The removal of discounts is estimated to offset the 11% reduction by one third.
In fact, this discount scheme has been quite effective in stimulating traffic growth in recent years. However, traffic growth in Spain was also boosted in 2016 by high airline capacity growth switched from other (risk) markets. Airline yield declines are probably noticeably heavier than AENA's regulated price reduction.
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.