Vueling to lease six A320s from Iberia and take over routes

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Spanish low-cost carrier Vueling is to temporarily sub-lease six Airbus A320s from part-owner Iberia and take over a number of the Spanish flag carrier's routes from Madrid Barajas.

Iberia, which holds a 45% stake in Vueling, will sub-lease the aircraft to the Barcelona-based carrier for a period of eight months, beginning in early April, Vueling chief executive Alex Cruz tells ATI.

The aircraft are held on operating leases by Iberia but will be painted in Vueling colours for the duration of the renewable contract.

Vueling will operate the flights both as point-to-point routes and as connecting services to other flights operated by Iberia. The two carriers will codeshare on the flights, as is the case with the rest of the flights in Vueling's network.

Cruz says the routes will be a combination of domestic and international, but he declines to disclose which destinations Iberia will be handing over.

The agreement will boost the number of aircraft Vueling has based at Madrid to nine from the current three.

"This is an opportunity for us to have a relationship with a major carrier at a major hub," says Cruz, adding that the agreement will act as a test-bed to see if Vueling can successfully act as a feeder to Iberia's long-haul operation.

Beyond the eight month contract period, Cruz says it is "undecided" whether the agreement will be renewed, partly renewed or terminated.

Cruz told ATI last year that Vueling would boost frequencies on certain routes from Barcelona this year to enable it to connect to flights operated by other airlines, as part of a strategy to establish its Barcelona El Prat base as a connecting hub.