Vueling trims fleet by one-third; Ibiza becomes summer focus

Image: Vueling water cannon
Vueling will base one plane in Ibiza this Summer, following a successful first attempt at serving routes to and from Ibiza last season. Meanwhile the carrier has adjusted capacity and predicts its top summer destinations this year to be the islands of the Balearics, Canaries and Malta.

With approval having been given to merge clickair and Vueling into a single airline (which will use the Vueling brand) it is worth examining how Vueling’s network has developed in recent times. The airline, formed by a consortium of investors, began operations on 1 July 2004 with flights from its hub at Barcelona to Ibiza, Palma and Paris CDG as well as flights from Palma and Paris to Valencia. In just over three years its fleet of A320s grew quickly to reach 24 aircraft. However, last winter as fuel prices rose and the airline faced increasing unprofitability it was decided to reduce the fleet and network significantly.

The least profitable routes were axed and capacity trimmed to increase yield. Having started 2008 with 24 aircraft by the end of the year the fleet had been reduced by one third to just 16 aircraft.

Chart: Vueling passenger numbers Monthly passengers (2006-2009)
Source: Vueling

From July onwards year-on-year passenger numbers fell though by the end of the year the airline had still handled 5.88 million passengers, down 5.4% on 2007. A load factor of around 70% for the year is, however, still significantly lower than other airlines operating in the European low-cost market.

Route pruning across all bases

Between the end of March and the beginning of September Vueling permanently axed some 12 routes, of which only three were domestic. The full list is summarised below.

Base Destination / Route
Barcelona Bilbao
Madrid Amsterdam, Brussels, Jerez, Santiago de Compostela
Paris CDG Granada, Venice
Seville Milan Malpensa
Valencia Milan Malpensa, Paris CDG
Others Granada – Rome FCO, Malaga – Brussels
Source: Vueling
Image: Vueling Dry Martini
Vueling takes on-board service to a new level at the launch of its own branded Martini. “It has been the greatest event of the year so far,” Vueling’s Patricia Burgos (marketing manager) told anna.aero.

Four services were dropped from Madrid while Paris CDG lost three routes. Three routes to Amsterdam (from Malaga, Seville and Valencia) were dropped for the winter season but have been re-instated for this summer. The Madrid base was formally established in November 2005 while the bases in Paris and Seville were opened in May and December of 2007.

Now serving 26 airports but none in Germany or UK

This summer Vueling will serve 26 airports in eight countries. The airline has never ventured onto the highly competitive (and mostly inbound dominated) routes to Germany, Scandinavia and the UK.

A comparison of weekly departures at the airline’s busiest airports for three separate time periods reveals that flights have not been cut from the airport’s main base in Barcelona but that several other airports will see frequencies this summer returning to levels seen last winter, having been cut significantly for this winter.

Between February and July the number of weekly flights will increase by just over 25% suggesting that additional capacity may be needed to cater for the seasonal peak in demand.

Chart: Vueling’s top 10 airports
Source: OAG Max Online for February 2008, February 2009, July 2009

Ibiza ‘base’ in 2009

The success of routes to and from Ibiza last summer has encouraged Vueling to base an aircraft there for the summer season. A total of eight routes will be operated; six domestic routes (to Alicante, Barcelona, Bilbao, Madrid, Seville and Valencia) and two international routes (to Paris CDG and Milan Malpensa).

Although Vueling has ramped up daily frequencies between Barcelona and Madrid to as many as 11 daily flights this winter during the peak summer holiday season frequency on this major business route is cut to just two daily flights.


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