Vueling keeps growing, plans to fly to a 100 cities from Barcelona
There was quite a lot of expectation today to hear what Vueling had to announce.
And there were interesting novelties, as Vueling continues to upgrade its product with the introduction of a business class. One step that was anticipated as it fits into the carrier's strategy to target business travellers. So, this announcement did not really come as a surprise, as I had already pointed out in these pages how there were objective measures to qualify Vueling as a hybrid airline rather than a low cost carrier and the airline's top managers had already provided some hints about the imminence of this move.
Regarding fleet renewal and expansion programme Vueling will be getting some 9 brand-new aircraft of the A320 family shortly (at the moment is still flying some Iberia-then-Clickair 1990s-vintage A320s) and some of them will be equipped with wi-fi. The first (unanswered) question that comes to my mind is whether this means the end of Vueling's flirtation with Bombardier's CSeries...
Another important novelty is the massive route expansion out of Barcelona and into Europe and Africa. The new twice daily service between Barcelona and London Gatwick really stands out, because until now Vueling had avoided head-to-head competition on this route with Easyjet and Ryanair. Also of note is the airline'e first foray into sub-saharan Africa, where it is "taking over" the niche route to Banjul, that used to be operated quite successfully by now-defunct rival Spanair. New routes to Morocco reinforce the growing presence of Vueling in Africa, that I commented already a few months ago. 28 new routes in total for the summer season (you can find the list here) that will bring to 100 the number of direct destinations operated by Vueling from Barcelona.
In another example of the company's hybridisation, Vueling's CEO Alex Cruz said that he aims to make of Barcelona one of Europe's top hubs (I guess he was referring to intra-European connections, since there are still few long-haul flights at Barcelona that Vueling's passengers can connect too). In order to support this claim he revealed that transit passengers already make 20% of total traffic (not a bad number for a company that was not initially conceived as a hub-and-spoke network carrier!).
The hub-in-the-Med possibility that I outlined nearly two years ago might finally come to fruition after all...