The History Of Air Europa: IAG’s Next Airline

As the International Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG) plans to complete its purchase of Air Europa in the next couple of months, we thought we would look back at the airline’s history. Founded in 1986 on the island of Mallorca, Air Europa focused on charter flights from European cities to Spanish resorts on the Mediterranean coast and Canary Islands.

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Air Europa has a fleet of 46 aircraft. Photo: Getty Images

While Madrid’s Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas Airport (MAD) has evolved into Air Europa’s central hub, the airline has maintained a presence at Palma de Mallorca Airport (PMI) and Tenerife Norte-Ciudad de La Laguna Airport (TFN). When Air Europa’s parent company, the British-owned ILG-Air Europe Group, stopped trading in 1991, a group of wealthy Spanish investors led by Juan José Hidalgo decided to purchase the airline.

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Air Europa challenged Iberia domestically

Now, rather than just operating holiday flights, Air Europa planned to challenge the monopoly that Iberia had on the domestic market. In 1993 Air Europa operated its first domestic flights and was a year later ready to challenge Iberia on the lucrative Madrid to Barcelona route. You have to remember that the high-speed rail line from Madrid did not open until 2008, making the one-hour, 20-minute flight preferable to driving.

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Air Europa competes with Iberia both domestically and abroad. Photo: Air Europa

By the late 1990s, Air Europa had expanded in Spain and Europe and had long-term aspirations focused on long-haul flights to Caribbean and South America destinations. Over the coming years, Air Europa continued to grow, and on September 1st, 2007, officially joined the SkyTeam alliance. In 2009 Air Europa continued its expansion, adding Lisbon, London, Venice, New York, and Miami to its list of destinations.

Air Europa takes delivery of 787 Dreamliners

With so many long-haul destinations in its portfolio, Air Europa became the first Spanish airline to incorporate the Boeing 787- Dreamliner into its fleet on March 16, 2015. When speaking about the delivery of the aircraft in a Boeing statement, Air Europa President Juan José Hidalgo said:

“Today’s delivery begins a new chapter in Air Europa’s story. The state-of-the-art 787 Dreamliner will provide us with significant operational advantages as we aim to expand our footprint around the globe.”

He later added, “Additionally, it is an airplane that will offer our passengers an unrivaled on-board experience and arrive at their holiday destination feeling refreshed.”

In 2019 Air Europa expanded even further after becoming the first international airline to obtain a license to operate domestic flights in Brazil. By doing this Air, Europa will be able to compete with GOL Airlines and Azul Airlines with the added advantage of allowing passengers to connect on Air Europa flights to Europe.

IAG agrees to buy Air Europa

In the same year, Air Europa agreed to be bought by IAG for one billion euros. When the COVID-19 pandemic reared its ugly head in the spring of 2020, the acquisition was put on hold, with IAG still wanting the Spanish airline, but for a reduced fee. In January 2021, a deal was reached between the two parties, with IAG now buying the airline for 500€ million, half of what it was offering pre-COVID-19.

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Air Europa is Spain’s third-biggest airline. Photo: Getty Images

With Iberia, which also belongs to IAG, the airline group already had a strong presence in Latin America. The addition of Air Europa to the group could turn Madrid-Barajas Adolfo Suárez Airport (MAD) into a hub that rivals Frankfurt, London, and Paris. Thanks to Air Europa’s domestic operating license in Brazil, it will give IAG access to South America’s fastest-growing marketplace.

Have you ever flown with Air Europa? If so, please tell us what you think about them in the comments.