Spanish carrier Air Europa expects to sign a codeshare agreement with SkyTeam-alliance partner Delta Air Lines within the next three months.

Spanish carrier Air Europa expects to sign a codeshare agreement with SkyTeam-alliance partner Delta Air Lines within the next three months.

Marking its 25th anniversary this year, Air Europa has increased the frequency of its summer and winter scheduled services to New York JFK and Miami International Airport, its two U.S. destinations. As Air Europa’s U.S. presence grows, a logical step is to launch a codeshare with SkyTeam partner Delta Air Lines, the world’s second-largest airline.

“We’ve been negotiating with Delta – we started last year and we’re getting closer and closer,” says Sophie Bousselma, Air Europa’s director for the U.S. market. “We hope that soon we will be able to announce a codeshare agreement with our SkyTeam partner.”

While Bousselma can’t yet say when the codeshare agreement will be signed, she expects a deal to be concluded within the next three months. Having begun Madrid-Mexico City service earlier this year, Air Europa already has a codeshare deal with AeroMexico, which is also the Spanish airline’s ground-handling agent in the U.S.

Air Europa's inuagural Madrid-Miami flight is welcomed with a traditional water-cannon salute at Miami International Airport in March 2010

Air Europa’s services linking Madrid with New York JFK and Miami compete directly with the joint transatlantic business established by oneworld members American Airlines, Iberia and British Airways. Bousselma acknowledges that these three airlines’ joint transatlantic business represents powerful competition but says it is a little too early yet for Air Europa to create a transatlantic joint venture with Delta, though SkyTeam partner Air France KLM has already done so.

“A very unique characteristic of Air Europa is that we remain the only scheduled, privately owned Spanish airline,” she notes. “I think that is probably one of our strengths, because we can offer the customer a targeted product. We have been two years in the U.S., really growing quickly and we have done really well until now. With the codeshare coming we can benefit from our partner’s network – but I think we will probably have to wait another year or so,” before any potential talks on a transatlantic JV with Delta could become serious.

Although Air Europa is a much smaller airline than Delta and several other SkyTeam carriers, it is growing quickly and is owned by Mallorca-headquartered Globalia, Spain’s largest tourism group. In 2010, Globalia – which is owned by Juan José Hidalgo and has some 25,000 employees – generated more than €4 billion ($5.46 billion) in revenues.

On November 1, Air Europa – which has been a full member of the SkyTeam alliance since June 2010 after joining as an associate member in 2007 – is boosting its winter schedule to New York JFK to six flights a week and its Miami schedule to four flights a week. Air Europa operates Airbus A330-200s on its Madrid-New York route and Boeing 767-300ERs on its Madrid-Miami service.

Last winter, Air Europa operated four flights a week to JFK and three a week to Miami. This past summer, Air Europa operated daily New York-Madrid services and five-times-weekly Miami-Madrid flights. The 2011 summer-service frequencies were higher on both routes than in 2010.

Air Europa began scheduled service to New York JFK in June 2009 and to Miami in March 2010. “We’re a new airline for the U.S. market,” says Bousselma. As a result, Air Europa isn’t planning to launch service to any other U.S. destinations in the short term – not even to Delta’s biggest hub, Atlanta.

“Our intention is primarily to consolidate the existing gateways we launched two years ago,” says Bousselma. Air Europa intends to do this by gradually increasing its summer and winter service frequencies as traffic builds, until it is offering year-round daily service in both its U.S. markets. “It’s a normal evolution of a scheduled operation – when we see the routes working and getting results, we increase frequencies.”

SkyTeam Alliance member Air Europa operates a sizable fleet of Boeing 737-800s on its short- and medium-haul scheduled services

Like several other SkyTeam Alliance carriers serving New York JFK, Air Europa’s flights arrive at and depart from Terminal 4. With a large-scale expansion of the terminal now underway in order to allow Delta Air Lines to move its massive New York JFK operation into Terminal 4 as well, most if not all SkyTeam carriers will be consolidated at the terminal when its expansion is completed in 2013.

However, at Miami International Airport Air Europa currently operates from Terminal F, while Delta and Air France operate from terminals H and G. Bousselma says Air Europa hopes eventually to be able to switch terminals to become co-located with its SkyTeam partners.

While still primarily a leisure-traffic carrier, Air Europa is increasingly focusing on the business traveler. Bousselma says a key part of its strategy is to offer convenient connections at Air Europa’s hub at Madrid Barajas Airport not only to the 20-plus Spanish domestic destinations to which it flies, but also to other major European cities which Air Europa serves. These include Paris, Rome, London, Lisbon, and Milan – and Air Europa is launching Madrid-Amsterdam service on November 1.

Although Air Europa isn’t planning any more U.S. destinations in the near term, its long-haul network from Madrid continues to grow. The carrier began serving Lima in February 2010 and in addition to starting a Mexico City flight this year, has also launched service in 2011 to Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic.

Air Europa currently operates a long-haul fleet of nine Airbus A330-200s and two Boeing 767-300ERs. The carrier has eight Boeing 787s on order, but as a result of Boeing’s long production delays with the type, the airline doesn’t know yet when it will be receiving its aircraft. On its short- and medium-haul routes, Air Europa operates a fleet of 21 Boeing 737-800s (the carrier has 33 more on order) and 11 Embraer 195s.

The carrier now operates at least 180 departures daily and boasts a 96 per cent punctuality rate. Air Europa flies to 38 destinations in 16 countries throughout Europe, Northern Africa and the Americas.

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