IAG International Airlines Group will rationalise the number of brands it operates in Spain following the incorporation of Air Europa (UX, Palma de Mallorca), CEO Willie Walsh said on November 8, according to the Spanish news agency EFE. It also plans to develop Madrid Barajas into a "360-degree hub".

With Air Europa, whose purchase by IAG is pending the approval of the relevant competition authorities, the group will have five brands based in Spain, the others being Iberia, Iberia Express, LEVEL, and Vueling Airlines. IAG expects the sale to close during the second half of 2020.

Operating with several brands in the same market could lead to confusion, Walsh said, so the group will study how to reduce their number. The group also needs a single solid global brand, well-recognised and well-positioned around the world, he added.

The acquisition of Air Europa will be good for Spain and "excellent" for Madrid Barajas to become a more efficient global hub, according to the chief executive.

Luis Gallego, president and CEO of Iberia elaborated that Madrid is not as strong a hub as its European competitors, with fewer flights and international destinations, as it is more focused on Atlantic and South Atlantic routes. The Air Europa acquisition will allow for the development of a "360-degree hub" in Madrid reaching in all directions. Gallego in particular stressed transforming it into a hub for traffic between Asia and Latin America.

In related news, A321neo delivery delays have forced IAG to reconsider its network plans possibly as far ahead as 2022, ATW reported. Airbus has cut its 2019 delivery target by up to 30 aircraft due to issues at its Hamburg Finkenwerder manufacturing site, related to greater demand for the complex Airbus Cabin Flex layout on the A321-200neo and the A321neo(LR).

“We’ve now replanned our network, particularly with regards to Aer Lingus (EI, Dublin Int'l) transatlantic, to reflect planned A321LR delays, which we see continuing through 2020, 2021, and maybe into the early part of 2022,” Walsh said during a recent earnings call.