Barcelona-based budget carrier Vueling in the coming weeks will unveil its first business-class cabin as part of a strategic effort that also includes a sizable network and fleet expansion next year, as well as a new fare structure.
Few details on the fleet expansion, new cabin or fare changes are currently being disclosed, with Vueling instead focused on promoting the addition of 28 new routes next year at its Barcelona El Prat Airport hub. This network expansion includes increased frequencies, as well as new services to Belgium, Eastern Europe, the Eastern Mediterranean, France, Greece, Italy, Russia and Sweden.
New services also are planned from March 2013 to Northern and Central Africa, as well as, CEO Alex Cruz said during a webcast press conference. Domestic services also will be added early next year, he said.
Five of the routes—Dresden, Germany; Fez, Morocco; Rennes, France; Rhodes and Kos, Greece—are new to El Prat.
This growth will increase Vueling’s El Prat network to 100 destinations and will help the carrier meet its goal of connecting 2 million passengers a year through its home airport. “Barcelona will become the most important European hub in 2014,” Cruz added, noting that in the past two years Vueling has added 45 new destinations at El Prat to make the airport second to Frankfurt for short- and medium-haul services across Europe.
More routes also are planned for Vueling’s non-hub airports, with new destinations and frequencies on offer for Alicante, Bilbao, Malaga and the Balearic and Canary Islands networks. Vueling’s continued expansion, indeed the carrier’s new strategy, is focused on business travelers, who the airline says will account for 50% of its traffic by the end of 2013.
The new fare structure, which Cruz says will include new fees, will be “well suited to the business customer.” A new marketing campaign will support this push, although Vueling offered little information apart from a new slogan.
This lack of detail to the fare structure and marketing campaign extends to the fleet expansion, with Vueling saying only that its El Prat-based fleet will grow to 43 aircraft from 34 and that 500 more staff will be needed. During the press conference, Cruz noted that the aircraft will come “straight from the factory” with the new cabin layout, and that a few Wi-Fi-enabled aircraft will be operated by the end of the year, but he offered no specifics on aircraft type, delivery schedule or ownership of this additional fleet.
Vueling currently operates about 60narrowbodies—mostly —with a single cabin configuration. Other than the announcement of a new business class, which will be branded “Excellence,” Vueling’s senior management is providing no details, although Cruz did say an announcement will be forthcoming “in a few weeks.”
The airline’s commitment to growth is in contrast to many of its European rivals, although the airline is still significantly smaller than many of Europe’s budget and legacy operations. But the carrier, which was launched in 2004, has been profitable for four consecutive years, and, according to Chairman Josep Pique, it expects to return more positive earnings at the end of 2012.