Interesting developments at Spanish low-cost carrier Vueling, which today announced plans to set up a base in the French city of Toulouse next year.
It It marks the first time the Spanish carrier has returned to the idea of non-Spanish bases since its consolidation through its merger with Clickair in 2009. Vueling in its pre-merger days briefly operated a Paris base before withdrawing back to its Spanish strongholds.
Vueling's chief executive Alex Cruz talked to me about some of the challenges of operating overseas bases when I interviewed him in September at the World Low Cost Airlines Congress. Here is a small extract from the article:
Clickair and Vueling cut their respective fleets of Airbus A320s ahead of last year's merger to counter over-capacity in the market. But the combined carrier is now looking at expansion with six aircraft due to join the fleet for next summer. "We'll spread the extra capacity about our bases and where we have the opportunities," says Cruz. "We have to grow carefully. We need to make decisions about more domestic bases [for summer 2011], then we are going to evaluate bases outside of Spain."
"What we are not, is big risk-takers," he adds. "But we cannot afford not to take some risks in order to keep growing. But it will be measured." The original Vueling operation briefly had a base at Paris Charles de Gaulle, before later returning to its Spanish strongholds.
Cruz says the key challenge on operating non-Spanish bases is from a labour rather than commercial standpoint. "We have to study what is the most optimal way to create and manage a workforce outside of our home country. The moment that happens [we are ready]. We believe we are commercially enabled."