What is the purpose of IB Express considering IAG (and Spain) has Vueling?
Iberia cabin crew have some some years operated on a similar basis to BA Mixed Fleet (and the new fleet) on a range of aircraft covering longhaul and shorthaul so crew flexibility already existed - IB Express has its own cabin crew and IB European flights have long since had BoB service.
If it's that successful why no BA Express, particularly now and going forward thinking of money saving.
A very interesting question. The answer has much to do with reducing operational costs, working practices and industrial relations.
Iberia Express was created specifically to replace Iberia operations at lower cost. IAG announced the creation of Iberia Express in October 2011. In December 2011 Iberia pilots went on strike, concerned about the effect on their jobs. Iberia Express began operations in early 2012. Iberia Express pilots and cabin crew were newly recruited. Iberia Express has lower operating costs than Iberia, but it is not a ‘low cost’ airline. For example, Iberia Express schedules and fares are distributed to global distribution systems, and passengers can interline to and from IB Express under Iberia’s partnership agreements. Iberia Express pretty much operates as ‘Iberia’.
Initially a large number of aircraft and routes were moved from Iberia to Iberia Express. I think I’m right in saying that in recent years the size of Iberia Express has reduced relative to Iberia. I’m happy to be corrected if I have that wrong.
IAG acquired Vueling in 2013. Vueling is a true low cost carrier. For example, Vueling does not distribute schedules and fares to GDSs and does not interline except in a very limited way. IAG acquired Vueling to give it a presence in the ‘low cost’ segment. It also strengthened IAG’s position in Barcelona. IAG has not used Vueling to substitute for Iberia.
BA went about reducing operational costs in a different way. At Heathrow, rather than moving flying to separate business units, BA reduced the costs of the ‘mainline’ operation. Over time, different work groups agreed to work in more flexible ways. The opening of Terminal Five was a catalyst for many working practice changes, for example, crew reporting for duty at the terminal. However, some cost reduction initiatives were more contentious than others. In 2010 BA pushed for a number of significant changes to Heathrow cabin crew working practices. This led to a strike, after which most of the twelve working practice changes BA wanted were implemented and the cabin crew Mixed Fleet created. This year, driven by the crisis, BA pushed through further cost savings.
Away from Heathrow, BA did at times create separate business units aiming to achieve lower costs.
In the 1990s BA Regional operated a number of long-haul services from Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow that had at one time been operated by Heathrow based crew.
At Gatwick, also in the 90s, BA set up project ‘Stamford’ to operate a small number of longhaul leisure routes from Gatwick. The initiative was the Commercial Director’s baby, and was ‘Stamford’ because he was a Chelsea supporter. The objective was to operate high volume, low yield leisure routes at a profit. These operations became a joint venture with Flying Colours. When the dedicated DC-10s used on those routes were replaced by leisure configured 777s the operation was merged back into the Gatwick longhaul operation.
Also, at Gatwick, ‘BA (European Operations at Gatwick)’ Ltd. was set up. This arrangement has endured. At Gatwick many shorthaul working practices differ from those at Heathrow and operating costs are lower. However, the on-board product is essentially the same as that offered at Heathrow, and so the services are marketed as ‘British Airways’. Incidentally, in recent years the Gatwick operation has been consistently profitable, so it a great shame that after all the effort it now faces an uncertain future.
IAG strategy is to pursue opportunities using the airline in the group best placed to exploit them. For example, Aer Lingus will be flying long-haul services from Manchester. These new services extend the reach of the group. If the acquisition of Air Europa goes ahead, IAG will have further options.
In short, to answer your question:
Iberia Express continues to have a role on operating high volume low yield routes as ‘IB’ that Iberia is unable to operate at a profit.
There is no ‘BA Express’ because at Heathrow BA and it's employees agreed significant cost savings, avoiding the need to create a separate business unit. At Gatwick BA does have a separate operatons business unit, but does not promote this.
Going forward, with things as they are and thinking of cost reduction who knows. Time will tell.
Ever since childhood, when I lived within sight of London Airport, I have seldom seen a plane go by and not wished I was on it.”
With apologies to Paul Theroux - ‘The Great Railway Bazaar’