Vueling Restores Mallorca Connection at London Heathrow

Spanish carrier Vueling is to restore air connections between the Balearic Island of Mallorca and the UK’s largest hub with a new direct link between London Heathrow and Palma.  The daily flight will be launched from March 23, 2013 at the start of the summer 2013 schedules and will operate alongside its services to Blibao and La Coruna from Terminal 3 at London Heathrow.  It will be flown using an Airbus A320. 

It is now over three years since an airline provided flights between Heathrow and Palma, although a significant range of flights have continued to be offered from other London airports.  The route was flown for a long time by Iberia, which held a monopoly through the 1980s flying a daily Boeing 727 service.  However, competition on the route arrived in June 1991 when British Midland inaugurated daily flights using a Douglas DC-9.  Not long after (November 1991) Viva Air replaced Iberia on the route, but operations returned to Iberia in March 1996 after the airline’s closure. 

The return of the Spanish carrier lasted just a month and British Midland held a monopoly on the route during summer 1996 before Iberia returned to the market in October the same year.  It maintained services for the winter 1996/1997 schedule but pulled off the route again in April 1997, leaving British Midland as the sole operator until it ceased flying between the two destinations in November 2009.

The new route into London Heathrow is just part of an expanded summer 2013 offering into the UK market from the Spanish carrier.  It will also add a twice daily link between its Barcelona base and London Gatwick from March 22, 2013, its Barcelona – Edinburgh service will return for the summer season, while its network to Cardiff will be expanded as Malaga joins its existing routes to Alicante, Barcelona and Palma.

“We are delighted to be bolstering our London Heathrow services with this popular route to Palma de Mallorca,” said Alex Cruz, Chief Executive Officer, Vueling.  “This is going to be hugely welcomed by the strong expat community and together with the introduction of London Gatwick-Barcelona flights, also commencing at the end of March, our expanded services from the UK capital form a key part of what will be a fourth consecutive year of growth.”

Palma is an expanding base for Vueling, which having grown from its low-cost roots now describes itself as a ‘new generation airline’.  With this direct connection from London Heathrow the airline will be offering 14 direct routes from the island next summer, including high frequency services from its Barcelona El Prat Airport base.

The island of Mallorca, the largest of Spain’s Balearic Islands, located in the Mediterranean Sea, is one of Europe’s top tourist destinations, renowned for its beautiful beaches, fabulous fiestas and gastronomic delights.  The island has something for everyone – from the mountains in the north to the fine, pale sands of secluded coves and from the ancient villages to the modernism of the island’s capital, Palma. 

Over one million passengers fly between Palma and the London airports every year but demand has been declining over the past few years.  According to UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) data 1.18 million passengers flew on services from City, Gatwick, Luton and Stansted airports to Mallorca in 2011, up 17.6 per cent on the previous year, following three successive years of decline. Strong growth was recorded across all airports with traffic up 30.0 per cent at City, 22.2 per cent at Gatwick, 15.9 per cent at Luton and 10.5 per cent at Stansted.  When British Midland (then known as bmi) last served the London Heathrow market from Palma it was carrying around 60,000 passengers a year but had been transporting upwards of 90,000 earlier in the decade. 

In the table below we highlight air passenger demand between the London airports and Palma since 2005 and how scheduled capacity has changed during the period.  These two parameters can not necessarily be compared, however, as a large amount of traffic into the Balearic islands continues to be flown on charter services through Inclusive Tour packages with tour operators.

SCHEDULED PASSENGERS ON ROUTE BETWEEN LONDON (ALL AIRPORTS) AND PALMA DE MALLORCA (UK CAA Air Passenger Demand, non-stop departures)

Year

Total Passengers

% Change

Scheduled Seat Capacity

% Change

2005

1,221,305

(-14.9) %

354,015

(-13.9) %

2006

1,262,310

3.4 %

374,982

5.9 %

2007

1,367,760

8.4 %

694,771

85.3 %

2008

1,345,706

(-1.6) %

667,479

(-3.9) %

2009

1,185,447

(-11.9) %

664,124

(-0.5) %

2010

1,011,362

(-14.7) %

552,615

(-16.8) %

2011

1,189,761

17.6 %

666,953

20.7 %

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