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J. Sánchez-Prieto (Vueling), at ESADE: “We’ve regained our customers’ trust and put them at the centre of what we do”

“Our average on-time rate was 80% last year, 11 percentage points higher than in 2016,” explained Javier Sánchez-Prieto

“Nowadays, our customers want us to take them anywhere because they are looking for experiences, while those who travel for business demand flexibility above all else,” explained Javier Sánchez-Prieto, Chairman and CEO of ‎Vueling, at the most recent Matins ESADE session, sponsored by Bluecap and organised in collaboration with La Vanguardia.

“Vueling has changed,” Mr. Sánchez-Prieto declared. “The company is once again ready to undertake a new growth phase, putting the customer at the centre of everything we do.” This commitment, he explained, requires an understanding of what motivates customers who “choose an airline based on price 50% of the time, based on availability 25% of the time, and only in the remaining 25% of cases do they consider other attributes, such as the brand”.

Mr. Sánchez-Prieto stressed the close relationship between tourism and air transport, noting that “55% of tourists travel by air” and that this figure “is as high as 80%” in Spain.

Present and future of Vueling

Mr. Sánchez-Prieto reviewed the main activity indicators for Vueling and its parent company, International Airlines Group (IAG), “the fifth largest airline group is the world by market capitalisation, with 105 million passengers each year, 63,000 employees and €23 billion in turnover in 2017”. Within this group, Vueling “has a fleet of 112 aircraft, transported 30 million passengers in 2017, and has 3,500 employees, making it Spain’s main airline and the leader at airports such as Barcelona, Bilbao, Galicia, Granada, Asturias and others, with €2.1 billion in turnover in 2017”.

Turning his attention to the future of the airline, the Chairman and CEO of Vueling noted that he is committed to “continuing to become more efficient, improving our network, being consistent in all points of contact with our customers, and improving the engagement of our employees on the front lines”. With this strategy, the company expects to see 10% year-on-year growth, achieve a sustainable return on invested capital of around 15%, and continue its commitment to innovation, “which has enabled us to develop interesting experiences in the areas of artificial intelligence and data analysis”, Mr. Sánchez-Prieto commented.

Ongoing commitment to Barcelona

Mr. Sánchez-Prieto repeatedly reiterated Vueling’s firm commitment to the Barcelona–El Prat airport, which he described as “one of Europe’s five largest airports, even ahead of Heathrow for our type of operations”. Vueling has already consolidated its position of leadership in Barcelona. “Next summer, we expect to hold a 37% market share, nearly 20 percentage points higher than our closest competitor.” For the coming high season, Mr. Sánchez-Prieto explained, Vueling “will base four more aircraft at El Prat”. However, Vueling’s major challenge in the city, and also for the airline as a whole, is “to grow during the winter”, he added. Figures from last January provide reason for hope: “If we grow 12% on average during the year and 8% in summer, this means that in January 2018 we had a year-on-year growth figure of 17%.”