LONDON Dec 23 British Airways-owner IAG
said it will start low-cost long-haul flights from
Barcelona to U.S. destinations in June next year, in an apparent
response to increasing budget competition on transatlantic
The move comes after a summer in which low-cost airlines,
lead by Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA, have shaken up the
Europe to North America travel market by offering ticket prices
as little as half what rivals charge.
IAG's budget airline brand Vueling uses Barcelona El Prat as
a hub, and IAG said on Friday that Vueling passengers could feed
into its long-haul flights at the airport, adding that it had
not yet decided whether to set up a new airline or use existing
resources from its airlines.
As well as British Airways and Vueling, IAG also owns
Spain-based Iberia and Ireland-based Aer Lingus.
"Barcelona has become a significant airport hub and we
believe that there is a demand for these flights from El Prat,"
IAG said in an emailed statement.
Destinations being considering for the long-haul plan are
Los Angeles, San Francisco, Buenos Aires, Santiago de Chile,
Havana and Tokyo, IAG said.
That could bring the airline group into direct competition
with fast-expanding Norwegian which is due to start budget
flights between Barcelona and Los Angeles and San Francisco from
Analysts at CAPA Centre for Aviation said it looked like IAG
was reacting to Norwegian's move.
"Plans by the low-cost carrier Norwegian to launch long-haul
routes from Barcelona in 2017 may have had a catalytic effect on
IAG's thinking," they said.
Long-established airlines like British Airways, American
Airlines Group Inc and Delta Air Lines Inc are
finding their formerly lucrative transatlantic routes tougher
amid rising competition from budget newcomers like
fast-expanding Norwegian, WestJet and Wow Air.
That has prompted the established or "legacy" carriers to
develop their own low-cost exposure.
Earlier this year Lufthansa's Eurowings unit started flying
long-haul to destinations such as Cuba, Thailand and the
Dominican Republic from Cologne, and it said this week it would
also consider long-haul flying from Munich.
Air France, part of Air France-KLM, said in
November it wanted to launch a new long-haul unit with lower
costs that would be staffed by Air France pilots and likely have
a name that also contained the words "Air France".
CAPA analysts said IAG could use Aer Lingus planes as an
initial platform for the long-haul plan as that airline is the
lowest cost long-haul operator in its portfolio of brands.
(Reporting by Sarah Young, additional reporting by Victoria
Bryan; Editing by Adrian Croft)