IAG CEO Willie Wash announced on Monday that Spain’s top airline has no plans to operate international flights from and to El Prat, despite it already being an important hub for flights between Spain and South American countries.
“They’re not sustainable routes,” Walsh argued during an interview in Washington at the inauguration of the new A380 British Airways flights between the American capital and London.
“It’s very easy for these airlines (British Airways, Vueling and Iberia) to grow but not in a profitable way, and that’s our objective.”
“For Iberia, the most efficient model is to focus all its long-haul flights on Madrid as a hub.”
The Irish businessman added that IAG would only operate from "El Prat if we think the routes will be profitable”, also stating that the group’s low-cost airline Vueling will soon have fewer routes to and from the Catalan capital.
With 7.5 million tourists in 2013, Barcelona surpasses every other city in Spain in visitor numbers.
Its economy reaps the financial rewards of an industry some locals claim is out of control and other believe could provide economic stability if Catalonia were to break away from Spain.
Local daily La Vanguardia reported the news on Monday without making any reference to possible links to the political turmoil stemming from November 9th's planned vote on independence for Catalonia.
One way or another, IAG’s decision is likely to push El Prat down in the ranking of Europe’s busiest airports (currently in 10th place, Barajas in sixth) and reduce the more than 35 million passengers it received in 2013.
As American Airlines CEO Doug Carter put it “For us Barcelona airport is a destination point, not a stopover hub”.