European network carrier target new models for short-haul

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IAG seeks structural change for Madrid feeder service while Air France provincial model set to launch from Marseilles

International Airlines Group and Air France-KLM are continuing efforts to tackle structural change in some of their short-haul operations.

At IAG, boosted by finally securing a breakthrough in the long-running cabin crew dispute at British Airways - which originated in the airline's belief structural change was required - work continues on tackling the cost-structure of Iberia's short-haul network out of Madrid.

This has already seen it transfer operations of some routes over this summer to Spanish carriers Air Nostrum and Vueling. All options appear to remain open, including deepening this arrangement in the winter should it fail to secure a breakthrough on costs with pilots.

Iberia chief executive Rafael Sanchez says there is flexibility in its arrangement with Air Nostrum and Vueling that means that October is not a hard and fast deadline for reaching a deal with staff. "Clearly we are still working to try and get some structural change to our short-haul operation. Depending on the outcome the possibility exists we might recover back those activities we passed onto Air Nostrum and Vueling, it might be we keep on this agreement or it might be we deepen the current agreement to pass on even more routes."

Any change would take effect from November with the winter season but Sanchez stresses it is too early to anticipate what the outcome will be. "We have a lot of flexibility, but we are determined to solve it," says Sanchez.

SkyTeam carrier Air France-KLM meanwhile is hoping to debut its new provincial model at Marseilles this October, which is aimed at tackling regional markets where low-cost carriers and high-speed rail have made gains.

The carrier announced its plan last year to begin provincial flights out of a number of French regional airports, where up to 10 aircraft could be based at each airport under a restructured model with fast turnaround times.

"On medium-haul we have to respond to a structural pressure," says Air France-KLM chief executive Pierre-Henri Gourgeon. "We have seen the pressure brought to bear from low-cost carriers and the [high-speed] train."

Talks are continuing with unions on the project, which aims to utilise existing staff who live locally, and Gourgeon hopes to launch the first flights under the concept this winter. "The first base should be Marseilles and first destinations should start to appear at the beginning of October," he says.

Other bases lined up for Toulouse, Nice and Bordeaux are set to follow later.

Read our feature from last year on the future of short-haul business class at: flightglobal.com/SHbusiness