Aer Lingus owner to launch budget transatlantic service
Aer Lingus planes could be used by International Airlines Group (IAG) to launch low-cost long-haul flights from Barcelona to US destinations in June next year, in an apparent response to increasing budget competition on transatlantic routes.
The move comes after Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA has shaken up the Europe to North America travel market by offering ticket prices as little as half what rivals charge, and will launch a Cork to Boston route in March.
Analysts at the CAPA Centre for Aviation said it looked like IAG was reacting to Norwegian's move and that 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.
IAG's budget airline brand Vueling uses Barcelona's El Prat as a hub, and IAG said yesterdayy 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.
Willie Walsh-led IAG owns Vueling, Spain-based Iberia, British Airways and 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 a 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 next summer.
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 are finding their formerly lucrative transatlantic routes tougher amid rising competition from budget newcomers such as fast-expanding Norwegian, WestJet and WOW Air.
That has prompted the legacy carriers to develop their own low-cost exposure. (Additional reporting Reuters)