Is Vueling getting ready for an African adventure?

Vueling A320 at Barcelona airport

Vueling A320 at Barcelona airport

Ready to fly South

One of the consequences of Spanair's demise was that Barcelona airport lost some niche African routes, such as Banjul (The Gambia) and Bamako (Mali) that were only operated by the bankrupt carrier.

While these routes never carried a large number of passengers, they were strategically important for Barcelona airport, that, lacking a traditional flag carrier, has long been struggling to find its place among European hubs. Africa's developing air travel market might provide some opportunities for Barcelona to develop its long-haul network. Over 560,000 passengers flew between Africa and Barcelona last year, around 60% of these on Moroccan routes, however these numbers are only a small fraction of the 30 million passengers that passed through Barcelona-El Prat (BCN).

According to Spanish business daily Expansion, quoting sources of the CDRA, Barcelona's route development organisation, nearly 25,000 passengers flew on the Banjul route last year and almost 15,000 on the Bamako one, with both routes showing robust growth. The CDRA has also identified Dakar as a potential viable route from Barcelona, since 24,000 passengers currently fly between the two cities annually through indirect routes.

If we are to give credit to some reports, Vueling might be seriously considering stepping in. Those are certainly challenging markets, but the absence of competition means that airlines can get higher yields on their African routes. This fact and growing economies all over the continent, despite current political instability in part of the Sahel, means that airlines from all over the World have turned their attention to the once-neglected African market.

It would be logical that Barcelona's home airline had a go at it. The Catalan airport, in turn, would also benefit from leveraging its advantageous geographical position to become a connection point between Europe and Africa.