As passenger traffic at Madrid airport experiences double digit dips, the Spanish media is full of stories about the future of Iberia and of Madrid Barajas airport.
There seems to be growing anguish in the Spanish capital over its future as an airline hub and the effect any change in this direction would have for the local economy, as nearly 200,000 people work in airport-related jobs.
This situation has some parallels with the one experienced by Barcelona a few years ago, although there are some differences too. Whereas Barcelona has never been a proper airline hub and, after flirting for a while with the idea of building one through a top-down approach, seems to have found the path to consolidate its position among Europe's top ten airports, even surpassing Madrid in number of passengers for the first time ever this summer.
Barcelona's recipe has been a combination of a strong local new-generation hybrid airline with a low cost base and an increasing attractiveness for emerging market airlines (for example, both Emirates and Russian airline Transaero are planning to start A380 service to Barcelona soon).
However, Madrid's position in the European hub system rests mainly on an airline that is going through really hard times as it has not been able to adjust its cost base to the new competitive scenario. While the Spanish economy was on steroids all was fine, but with the crisis the pain has arrived and IAG seems determined to take drastic measures to bring it back to competitiveness even if it is at the expense of Madrid's route network or Iberia's status as a full service airline.
These lastest prospects have not go down well in Madrid: recent moves on the side of the government seem a mixture of "carrot", like a recent proposal to lower airport charges at Madrid (an interesting move given the, until now, Spanish government's centralized approach to airport management) and the "stick" (like granting Asian and Middle Eastern airline's 5th freedom rights at Madrid).
The Spanish media have made quite a big fuzz with the latter (such as in this rather confusing article), but utlimately, I do not think some fifth freedom rights might change the landscape much (there are already quite a few fifth freedom flights by non-European airlines from European airports, two of them out of Barcelona, actually, with Singapore Airlines and Pakistan International AIrlines flying to Sao Paulo and Chicago respectively). If you are interested in teh topic, here is a list of flights that make use of fifth freedom rights.
And amidst this atmosphere, Iberia is presenting its latest rebranding, with new logo included (by the way, here is a snapshot of how it will look like!), on the 15th. We will follow this up!