International Airlines Group (IAG) -- parent of British
Airways, Iberia, Vueling and Aer Lingus --plans to launch a new long-haul
operation out of Barcelona in June.
The company said it has yet to iron out the details. It
could be a new airline or simply make use of existing IAG resources.
In either case, the operation out of Barcelona, Vueling's
base, will connect passengers from Vueling's European network onto long-haul
IAG is considering several destinations for the new
operation -- Los Angeles, San Francisco, Buenos Aires, Santiago de Chile,
Havana and Tokyo.
"Barcelona has become a significant airport hub and we
believe that there is a demand for these flights," IAG said.
IAG referred to the planned service as "a next-generation
long-haul operation," but didn't say whether it would be a low-cost carrier.
The new venture appears to be a move by IAG to operate long-haul
flights with lower overhead than legacy carriers Iberia and British Airways.
The move follows Air France KLM's November announcement that
it would launch a new company to operate out of Paris Charles de Gaulle
alongside Air France. The company will have a fleet of 10 long-haul aircraft by
2020 and is being formed to compete with the production costs of Gulf carriers
Emirates, Etihad and Qatar.
Europe's other primary airline group, Lufthansa, is growing
its low-cost unit, Eurowings. Late last year, Lufthansa Group agreed to lease
40 aircraft from struggling competitor Air Berlin, with 35 of those planes to
be put to use by Eurowings.