Puerto Rico will once again have a direct connection to Spain starting in May 2014, when Air Europa will take over the route that competitor Iberia abandoned earlier this year due to economic problems.
During a Tuesday news conference at La Fortaleza, Air Europa CEO Javier Hidalgo confirmed the carrier’s plans to begin offering a twice-weekly connection between San Juan and Madrid on Thursdays and Sundays on an Airbus A-330 with capacity for 299 passengers, including 22 business-class seats.
From the Spanish capital, Air Europa will offer connections to other major European cities such as London, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Paris, Milan, Rome and Moscow, he said.
“We’ve done our market analysis in Puerto Rico and Europe and we believe we have a potential market here. We have reached some very interesting agreements and it’s important that we don’t remain at two flights per week, but rather increase that to five or seven flights, as we do in the Dominican Republic, Cancún and Punta Cana,” Hidalgo said.
It is estimated that Air Europa’s in Puerto Rico will have an impact of about $38 million in the local economy during its first year of operations and will create about 15 direct jobs and 450 indirect jobs. Similarly, the government estimated that 15,000 European tourists — staying on the conservative side — could reach the island thanks to this new route.
Founded in 1986, Air Europa is the third largest airline in Spain, with a fleet of 44 aircraft and 4,000 employees. Its parent company Globalia is a member of the SkyTeam alliance, which also includes airlines like Delta, Air France and KLM. In the last year, the airline achieved a 17 percent growth in business, and Hidalgo said the number should reach 20 percent this year with the addition of new routes to Puerto Rico, Sao Paolo, Chile and Miami.
The carrier’s fleet is about three-and-a-half years old, but as of 2016, Air Europe will receive its first 787 Dreamliner aircraft, which will eventually be used to serve the new Puerto Rico route, Hidalgo said.
The connection will serve to promote Puerto Rico as a tourist destination in Europe, a market with great potential for the island, Gov. Alejandro García-Padilla said during the news conference in Old San Juan.Founded in 1986, Air Europa is the third largest airline in Spain, with a fleet of 44 aircraft and 4,000 employees.
“Our plan to enhance tourism’s contribution to our economy is based on four efforts: improving air access, improving port and airport infrastructure, increasing the supply of available rooms, and channeling our marketing efforts more effectively through niche markets,” García-Padilla said.
“Air Europa’s arrival to Puerto Rico serves two such efforts, so it is very promising,” he noted. “We’re opening a new door to the European Union by establishing a new route for tourism and business travelers, with new non-stop, direct flights between San Juan and Madrid.”
To ensure the commercial success of Air Europa’s new Madrid-San Juan route, the Puerto Rico Tourism Company will invest $2 million in a marketing and sales plan, to promote the island as a destination throughout Europe, Puerto Rico Tourism Company Executive Director Ingrid Rivera said.
Half of that investment will be earmarked for promotional efforts in Spain alone, she said.