Vueling CEO Alex Cruz said despite the challenges in the Spanish market, international traffic continues to grow to/from Barcelona (aerotelegraph.com, 02-Nov-2012). He said, "We believe that we have the right business model to survive in a tough and shrinking market. Vueling operates at a very low cost basis - the second lowest in Europe. This gives us the flexibility to offer competitive prices to attract new passengers and to develop new markets. We also offer a premium product almost like classical airlines booking through travel agencies, frequent flyer programme, free newspapers and a business class. This allows us to attract a high proportion of business people. Therefore, we feel strong enough for a growth strategy". On its network trends, Mr Cruz said, "We're expanding outside Spain, that's true. We are currently evaluating various options. In the medium term, we will open a second base abroad, which allows us to offer new routes. But it is still too early to say more details about it".
Vueling expanding outside of Spain, to add second international base
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After much delay, in late Jan-2017 the Spanish Council of Ministers approved the airport regulation document setting AENA's airport charges for the next five years. The headline numbers include a 2.2% annual decline in charges from 2017 to 2021, equivalent to an overall cut of 11% through the period.
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.