Iberia Boosts Activity, Assesses MRO Demand

Credit: Iberia Maintenance

Like many shops across Europe, Iberia Maintenance began ramping up activity last month following a slowing of operations in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak and the airline MRO says it is now adopting a week-by-week approach when assessing demand increases.

Headquartered in Spain, which went into lockdown in mid-March, Iberia saw an almost instantaneous drop in demand as a result that led to all its shops running at reduced capacity. The airline’s International Airlines Group (IAG) parent company, which also owns British Airways, Aer Lingus and Vueling, announced cuts to its flying capacity by at least 75% in April and May. 

However, the carrier still operated more than 80 cargo flights during the downtime as well as more than 40 repatriations flights, which generated some maintenance work for its scaled back shops. “Along with supporting this demand we have focused on preservation and parking activity and any other special service required in these difficult times,” says Andy Best, commercial director, Iberia MRO.

Having started to pick things up in May at its main shops in Madrid and Barcelona, the MRO intends to review demand regularly to identify the need to further grow output. “We are assessing this on a weekly basis and will return to various production levels depending on demand,” Best says. “Ramp up times are kept to a minimum as we have maintained the shops on skeleton working throughout”. 

Many of its employees have been working remotely during the lockdown, while given the revenue shortfalls brought about by the lack of air travel, Iberia also tapped into the Spanish government’s ERTE furlough scheme, which reduces an employee's working hours during the crisis and covered around 13,900 of its 17,000 strong operation. In its maintenance division, employees in airframe, line, engine and component services were included in the overall figures.

But as staff eventually return to work in bigger numbers, measures are being introduced across its hangars to help ensure safety. “This plan includes the performance of serological tests on all employees as they return to work, disinfection of facilities, new cleaning protocols, use of PPE, hygienic, technical and organizational measures, such as home working where possible, among many other initiatives,” Best says.

Another long-term change is likely to be in its cost base across its maintenance operation and looking at its product offering, which is divided between in-house fleet work of its IAG parent company and third-party customers. 

Best is realistic about the new, sober reality facing the carrier and the wider industry. “Clearly customer demand is going to be lower over the coming period and then the new demand level is going to be lower than what we experienced in 2019,” he says. “To deal with that new landscape we will address not only our cost base but also our product offering, which will have to be flexible enough to support the new customer needs.”

James Pozzi

As Aviation Week's MRO Editor EMEA, James Pozzi covers the latest industry news from the European region and beyond. He also writes in-depth features on the commercial aftermarket for Inside MRO.