Aena and IAG look to Asia to reduce distances with the hubs in central Europe

Draft movements in the Spanish air sector, in the midst of a pandemic, are explained by the urgent need to take positions faced with a recovery that will last a minimum of two to three years and that takes the airports in southern Europe in inferior conditions compared to those in the center of the continent.

In order to IAG and own Aena Competing will not be an easy task in the face of long-distance giants that have been reinforced by their governments during the crisis, as is the case of Lufthansa, Air France o KLM, absolute dominators in the main hubs.

Asia was already the pending subject of Madrid-Barajas and Iberia itself before the pandemic, and it will become a priority objective in the coming years.

France, Germany and the Netherlands operate 70% of the long haul compared to southern countries

The airline he presides over Javier Sánchez-Prieto seeks to strengthen itself at the Madrid airport with the acquisition of Air Europa, an operation that is already being analyzed by the Community Competition authorities and that would free up capacity. Today both rivals have their operations focused on Latin America and together they could seek new horizons.

The CEO of IAG, Luis Gallego, advanced days ago that the relationship with Qatar Airways and its Doha hub can be a lever of support towards Asia.

The holding company to which Iberia belongs has also opened an internal reflection to draw up the plan that will make it the first Barcelona-El Prat player in long-haul flights, once it already dominates in the short and medium with Vueling.

Aena, for its part, tries to convince the Generalitat of Catalonia that support the Barcelona airport expansion project, with investments of 1.7 billion, with the intention of turning it into a hub with operations to all continents.

5% of the long distance in Madrid is destined for Asia, for 27% of Frankfurt

These are necessary reinforcements, explain sources in the airline sector, given the growing dominance in recent years of players with greater volume, both among airlines and in terms of airports.


The gradual reactivation of air traffic constitutes an opportunity, the same sources agree, for the squares of southern Europe to try to shorten distances. Madrid, Lisbon, Rome and Athens closed 2019 with a secondary role in European connections with the rest of the world, compared to Paris, Frankfurt, Munich and Amsterdam.

In the sum of the population of all these cities, the aforementioned southern capitals contribute 59%, but only offer 26% of the air capacity measured in seats per kilometer operated, compared to the 74% that Paris Charles de Gaulle offered in 2019 (operated by Groupe ADP), Amsterdam (Schiphol Group), Frankfurt (Fraport) and Munich (Flughafen München). Special mention deserves the dominator London-Heathrow.

The trend in the past decade was favorable to leaderss, among other things due to the scourge of the financial crisis in southern countries. Paris, Frankfurt, Munich and Amsterdam grew by 11 million long-haul seats between 2011 and 2019, while Madrid, Lisbon, Rome and Athens added eight million.

Regarding the object of desire that constitutes the Asian traveler, only 5% of the long-haul capacity offered by the airlines in Barajas was related to Asia in 2019, a share that was 6% in Barcelona. Other infrastructures in the south, such as Lisbon and Rome, offered quotas of 0% and 17%. In any case, all of them are far from 20% of Munich; 21% from Amsterdam; 24% that Asia weighs in the long haul from Paris; 25% from Zurich, or 27% from Frankfurt. All surpassed by 28%, with 59 million seats towards Asia, which London-Heathrow reached before Covid-19.

Regardless of their positions in Europe, Fraport operates in Asia, managing the Chinese airport in Xianyang, the Indira Gandhi airport in Delhi (India), and the Turkish tourist center in Antalya. The French ADP Group, for its part, gains positions in Asia through investees. Before the pandemic, it agreed to take 49% of GMR Airports, with airports in the Indian cities of Delhi, Hyderabad, Goa and Boughapuran, in addition to the Philippine Mactan Cebu airport. And it has 46% of the Turkish TAV Airports.

A giant in each square

Almost unique presence. Dutch public funded aid KLM is the most dominant European airline in its natural hub, in this case Amsterdam airport. Before the pandemic broke out, its market share was 76% in long-distance operations.

From the great enclaves to Lufthansa. The airports of Frankfurt and Munich are practically limited terrain for the transoceanic flights of the German Lufthansa. In both it has a weight that is around 70% compared to its competitors.

Zurich and Paris. Another firm of the Lufthansa group, Swiss, places 6.3 out of every ten seats offered in the long radius of the Swiss airport in Zurich. Its share is similar to that of Air France in the Paris Charles de Gaulle infrastructure.

Madrid and Italy. The leadership of the old flag airlines in the hubs of southern Europe is not so obvious. Iberia and Alitalia account for 45% of the seat offer on large flights in Madrid-Barajas and Rome-Fiumicino, respectively. The IAG firm would take 65% in its hub with the sum of Air Europa, according to 2019 traffic data.


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