DALLAS — There are a few instances of airlines that entered the cutthroat low-cost travel market and became industry leaders after more than 20 years of success. This is the case of Vueling (VY), the Spanish low-cost carrier (LCC), which turns 20 years old today, February 10, 2024.
The airline is on the cusp of its expansion, with over 250 routes, a fleet of more than 120 Airbus A320 family jets, and a network spawned from its largest El Prat Airport (BCN) hub, next to the coastal city of Barcelona.
The Spanish LCC has consistently reported profits during economic downturns and has recovered post-pandemic faster than most of IAG’s other airlines. So how did it all begin?
Barcelona, February 2004
Vueling started as a tiny carrier that took the chance to put the city of Barcelona on the map by operating a network of five destinations with two Airbus A320 aircraft. The first flight to Ibiza (IBZ), in the Balearics, took off on July 1, 2004.
As Cirium’s database of historical schedules shows, BCN was Europe’s eighth busiest airport by seat capacity in 2004. According to Mike Malik, CMO at Cirium, at the time, Iberia (IB), Spain’s largest airline, dominated the aviation industry in Barcelona. However, most of its resources and focus were directed towards Madrid, the country’s capital, where it generated significant revenue by operating long-haul flights to Latin America.
As a result, there was an opportunity for other airlines in the Barcelona market, such as Spanair and Air Europa (UX), who were not true low-cost carriers like JetBlue (B6) in the United States, to fill this void. This is when VY enters the scene, embracing a business model similar to B6, focusing on maintaining low costs while offering a wide range of passenger amenities. While it got pushback from IB in the form of Clickair (XG) two years later, the new LCC stood its ground, merging with XG…
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