Barcelona (BCN) has long been the bastard child to Madrid (MAD) in terms of air service to the city. While vastly more popular to visit, lucrative business traffic in the premium cabins to Madrid simply trumps anything Barcelona can offer.
Just take a look at service from the United Sates to Spain and you’ll realize that MAD is far more well served than BCN – and for good reason. It’s cheaper, even for Spain’s home carrier of Iberia (IB) to connect people through their Madrid hub than to dedicate non-stop service to Barcelona.
But that’s been changing of late – Emirates came in, then went double daily Airbus A380 within two years. Both Etihad and Qatar have also come in from the Middle East, complimenting new services from Delta, United and American as well as Singapore Airlines from the Far East – even connecting the city further west to Sao Paulo in Brazil.
oneworld founding member Iberia is even testing the waters to markets to the east, launching services to Mumbai in India in 2017, with Star Alliance carrier Air India commencing operations to Spain in the near future as well.
There are now whispers of Cathay Pacific (CX) even connecting Hong Kong direct to Barcelona – that’s yet to be seen but it seems as though SkyTeam beat CX to the punch in terms of scheduled non-stop service from East Asia to Barcelona.
It what seem like a bit of a coup, Korean Air (KE) has announced non-stop flights from their hub at Seoul Incheon International Airport (ICN) to Barcelona El Prat International effective April 28, 2017. While the airline has operated selected charter flights in the summer season to BCN for the past two years, this marks the first real venture into scheduled services to the city. Barcelona has proved to be a popular destination for Korean tourists (whose spending power continues to increase) and also a favorable jump off point for Mediterranean cruises, especially compared to points further east in Turkey given the current security climate.
As far as Asian carrier operations go in Barcelona, Korean’s new service compliments Air China’s service to Beijing (via Athens), Thai Airways direct to Bangkok, and the previously mentioned Singapore Airlines service. Air India will soon join the game as well.
Flights are reported to begin at 3x weekly, reflecting the leisure nature of the route. It will be served on KE’s 3-class Boeing 777-200 aircraft that seats 248 passengers and is outfitted with semi-enclosed suites in First Class (not the same product as on their premium 777s and A380s) and lie flat beds in Business, with a 3-3-3 Economy Class configuration (thank god for 9 abreast in Economy 777!).
Schedules are yet to be released.
In this market between Spain and Asia, Star Alliance vastly dominates the route, no question about it. This flight marks the first SkyTeam foray into the Spanish market from Asia.
It’s great for both Western European and Asian based SkyTeam elites.
The fact that oneworld is responding with perhaps a new Cathay service shows that the market is there, and Korean Air is wise to test the waters with a 3x weekly service. Despite the tourist nature of the flight, they are indeed sending their 3 class 777 which while not their most updated, the aircraft is actually configured in a pretty low density layout with many premium seats, especially in Prestige Business Class which is again good news for people out for cheaper redemptions even on ‘Round The World’ itineraries.
That and the fact that when you de-board your most likely excellent award winning inflight experience with KE, you’ll be in Barcelona. Always a plus.
Sleek move on Korean’s part – they’ve beat their arch rivals Asiana to punch in coming to Barcelona, and even got their Japanese counterparts on the back heel in introducing this new market. Local demand is already strong, and KE being the sole airline from East Asia to Spain is surely to lure other transit passengers from neighboring countries on this route.
The flight will also peek the interest of SkyTeam elites wanting to avail of some redemptions and keep them happy. Don’t be surprised if Korean strikes some lucrative deals with cruise and tour operators out of Spain through the Med and North Africa either – another valuable line of revenue.
We’ll update you with actual flight timings and numbers, but till then – any interest in gobbling up some Kimbap en-route to Spain to have some gambas al-ajillo post arrival? I know I am. And I’m a Star guy.