The merger announced today of British Airways plc and Iberia Airlines will create an airline with 408 aircraft, 200 different destinations, and estimated to carry 58 million passengers a year.

Impressive figures.  But Lanzarote travellers will want to know what it means for competition on the main routes in to, and out of,  Arrecife from the UK, Ireland, and mainland Spain in particular.  British Airways, it will be remembered, sold their charter airline GB Airways,  to Easyjet a few years back, and at the time this reduced competition for flights in and out of Gatwick especially.

Though the Lanzarote route out of Gatwick was picked up by Easyjet, the number of flights was then reduced, and this pushed up average ex-Gatwick fares by around 20%, an increase that was then pegged back a little after Ryanair stepped up the number of their Lanzarote flights out of the London airports. God bless ‘em.

So will the new British Airways/Iberia combo (the zippy new name, by the way, is to be “International Consolidated Airlines”), stir things up again on the Lanzarote route? Time will tell.  If the decision is to launch the new enlarged airline on a premium platform, we could see the return of Business Class flights to Lanzarote, for example, and this could help to subsidise more affordable economy fares.  Possibly good news for all, in that case, especially if the number of flights increases as well.

There’s not really a lot to be lost –after all, Iberia only fly in and out of Lanzarote from mainland Spain, and BA don’t currently fly in and out at all.  The big hope must be that they see an opportunity for direct-from-UK flights, and that they will be a more feasible part of the growth plan with the costs of the combined new group now lower.  Part of the strategy for the new group (and the clue is in the use of word 'Consolidated' in the new name) is to acquire further airlines in an industry that has suffered badly through the recession and is crying out for consolidation.

According to Willie Walsh, the current CEO of British Airways, and who will hold a similar position in the new enlarged group:

 "The merged company will provide customers with a larger combined network. It will also have greater potential for further growth by optimising the dual hubs of London and Madrid and providing continued investment in new products and services".

We can but hope!

(Photos by kind permission of David Clelford)