Iberia unveils premium economy seat

Iberia premium economy seat

Iberia has launched a new premium economy seat which will be fitted to 37 of its long-haul aircraft from next summer.

The seat will be wider than the current economy seat at 19 inches, and seat pitch will be 37 inches.

Seat recline will also be increased by 40 per cent compared to economy, and the premium economy seat will feature a larger IFE screen (13 inches compared to nine in economy).

Other features will include adjustable head and foot rests, noise-cancelling headphones, and an “exclusive amenities kit”. Premium economy passengers will also benefit from priority boarding and disembarkation, an extra suitcase allowance, upgraded dining options and “other privileges”.

The new cabins will gradually become available from summer 2017, with eight Airbus A330-300s and 13 A340-600s due to be refitted. In addition the carrier’s 16 new A350-900s will be factory-fitted with the new seat when they are delivered from 2018.

The first routes to feature the new seat will be from Madrid to Buenos Aires, Lima and Chicago next summer, and Iberia says it will be the first airline to affer a premium economy cabin on direct flights between Spain and Latin America.

Announcing the new product, Executive Chairman Luis Gallego said:

“Premium Economy is an initiative included in our Plan de Futuro aimed at increasing revenues. It will give Economy passengers an additional option for greater comfort and extra services on long flights.”

iberia.com

AAdvantage bonus miles when flying transatlantic

American Airlines

American Airlines is offering its AAdvantage members up to 125,000 bonus miles when flying transatlantic with AA, British Airways, Finnair, Iberia or OpenSkies.

The promotion, which runs until January 31, has been launched to celebrate five years of transatlantic travel between American and its four partner airlines.

Valid on round-trips between Europe and North America, members can earn 25,000 bonus miles on first class and business fares, 7,000 bonus miles on premium or full-fare economy tickets (Y, B or H), and 2,000 miles on other economy fares.

American transatlantic bonus miles table

To be eligible, members must register before travel using promotion code NAF15 and complete travel by January 31.

Bonus miles can only be earned on a maximum of five round-trips and do not count towards elite status qualification or AAdvantage Million Miler status.

In a separate promotion, AAdvantage members can earn double miles when flying with American or Japan Airlines between North America and Asia before December 15 (see news, September 15).

aa.com

Graham Smith

Iberia losing €1.7 million per day

International Airlines Group (IAG) has posted its latest financial results, with Iberia making an operating loss of €262 million for the first nine months of this year.

The carrier’s CEO Rafael Sánchez-Lozano said that Iberia is “in [a] fight for survival”, adding that the carrier is “unprofitable in all its markets”, and stressing that “Unless we take radical action to introduce permanent structural change the future for the airline is bleak”.

IAG has announced a “transformation plan” to save the airline, including a 15 per cent cut in network capacity next year, and a reduction in fleet capacity of 25 aircraft (five long-haul and 20 short-haul). There will also be around 4,500 job cuts.

Loss-making routes will be suspended, and while the group has yet to confirm exactly which services will be cut, Business Traveller has obtained confirmation that routes from Madrid to Berlin, Stockholm and Amsterdam (the last already operated by Iberia Express) will be dropped from January 10.

Commenting on the results Iberia’s CEO Rafael Sánchez-Lozano, said:

“The Spanish and European economic crisis has impacted on Iberia, but its problems are systemic and pre-date the country’s current difficulties. The company is burning €1.7 million every day. Iberia has to modernise and adapt to the new competitive environment as its cost base is significantly higher than its main competitors in Spain and Latin America.

“Time is not on our side. We have set a deadline of January 31, 2013 to reach agreement with our trade unions. We enter those negotiations in good faith. If we do not reach consensus we will have to take more radical action which will lead to greater reductions in capacity and jobs”.

IAG’s CEO Willie Walsh warned that “For too long the narrow self interest of the few has damaged the long term future for the many”.

“We will not hesitate to take the necessary steps to protect the interests of our shareholders, our customers and our employees,” said Walsh. “This turnaround plan is critical for Iberia and for the future of Spain. A strong and profitable Iberia can create jobs and boost tourism, a key driver in Spain’s economic recovery”.

There was better news for IAG carrier British Airways, which posted an operating profit of €286 million for the first nine months of 2012, cancelling out the Iberia losses and resulting in an overall profit of €17 million for IAG over the period.

Fuel costs were up 23.5 per cent on the same period in 2011, at €4,633 million.

Yesterday IAG confirmed it is to make a bid for full control of Spanish low-cost carrier Vueling (see online news November 8). Iberia already owns 45.85 per cent of the carrier, and IAG will offer around €113 million for the remaining 54.15 per cent.

For more information visit iairgroup.com, ba.com, iberia.com.

Report by Mark Caswell

Iberia adds ‘Avios and Money’ option

Members of the Iberia Plus loyalty scheme now have the option of using a combination of Avios and cash to pay for flights, similar to the long-standing benefit of BA’s Executive Club programme.

Dubbed ‘Avios and Money’, the new service allows members to use a desired combination of Avios and cash to pay for Iberia, Iberia Express and Iberia Regional Air Nostrum flights online or through the carrier’s Iberia Plus Service Centres.

Iberia Plus members looking to book flights with partners Vueling or British Airways must make their reservation through one of the service centres to make use of the Avios and Money service.

Members may use cash to pay for up to 50 per cent of the fare (excluding airport taxes).

BA has offered a similar benefit through its Executive Club scheme for some time, allowing members to combine BA Miles (now Avios) with cash.

The addition of the service co-incides with the 21st anniversary of the Iberia Plus scheme.

For more information visit iberia.com.

Report by Mark Caswell

Iberia job losses “inevitable”

International Airline Group (IAG) has announced its latest financial results, showing a first-half operating loss after exceptional items for Iberia of €263 million, compared to a profit of €13 million over the same period for British Airways.

The group as a whole made a half-year operating loss of €253 million before exceptional items, the majority of which was accounted for by €38 million of restructuring costs at Bmi.

CEO Willie Walsh said that there remained a “stark difference” in the performance of IAG’s subsidiaries BA and Iberia, calling Iberia’s problems “deep and structural”.

Walsh said that the group was working on a restructuring plan for Iberia which he anticipated being finalised by the end of September, and admitted that “Inevitably, we will not be able to avoid job losses as part of this process”.

Walsh said that the restructuring was “likely to include short term downsizing, network reshaping to deliver higher unit revenues and a re-evaluation of all aspects of the business to deliver competitive costs and service to enable long-term profitable growth”.

IAG said that the underlying British Airways trading conditions remain firm and that the Bmi integration is “on track”, but warned that “any benefit from an easing of fuel prices has been more than offset by the deterioration in Spanish economic conditions”.

The group had previously targetted a break-even operating result this year, but said that “in the light of the Spanish macro headwind, we now expect to make a small operating loss in 2012”.

For more information visit iairgroup.com, ba.com, iberia.com.

Report by Mark Caswell

Iberia introduces “virtual check-in agents”

Iberia has introduced “virtual travel agents” in an attempt to cut waiting times at check-in.

Male and female “audiovisual projections” will relay information to passengers at Madrid airport’s T4, including the use of check-in kiosks, express bag drop counters and boarding procedures.

The virtual staff are located in front of the carrier’s check-in desks 810 and 811 at Terminal 4, and will relay over 200 messages including “practical information about luggage, access to security control, boarding procedures, and the numerous products and services offered by the airline: VIP lounges, the Iberia Plus programme, fast-track service, etc”.

Iberia says it is the first network carrier to use the technology, although similar initiatives have been installed at Frankfurt and Dubai airports.

The carrier says that over half of its passengers now check in for flights either online or using airport check-in kiosks, and adds that it is “streamlining check-in procedures” in order to cut waiting times.

For more information visit iberia.com.

Report by Mark Caswell

BA and Iberia “won’t be the last” airlines within IAG

Willie Walsh said today that the merger of BA and Iberia under the International Airlines Group is “the first step towards creating a multinational multi-brand airline group”.

IAG’s chairman Antonio Vázquez and chief executive Willie Walsh were at the London Stock Exchange this morning to witness the start of trading of shares in the holding company for the newly merged Iberia and British Airways.

Speaking at the launch Walsh said:

“British Airways and Iberia are the first two airlines in IAG but they won’t be the last. Our goal is for more airlines – but, importantly, the right airlines – to join the group. Today is the first step towards creating a multinational multi-brand airline group”.

Walsh added that the merger will see the two carriers “retain their strong brands”, with complementary networks that operate from “two of the biggest hubs in Europe”. The agreement is expected to lead to annual synergies of €400 million from year five.

For more information visit iairgroup.com, ba.com, iberia.com.