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Iberia Express budget airline aims for Germany

New Spanish budget airline Iberia Express is considering entering the German market, and could be flying from Berlin or Frankfurt to Spanish coastal resorts before the end of this year.

Iberia Express budget airline aims for Germany
Photo: DPA

The firm’s CEO Luis Gallego told Tuesday’s Financial Times Deutschland newspaper the move could reduce costs by allowing maximum use of the aircraft.

Flights “from central German airports like Berlin or Frankfurt to the Spanish coastal resorts” could begin as early as October, he said.

The 42-year-old engineer has strong credentials in the industry, as co-founder of fellow low-cost carrier Clickair and former director of Iberia subsidiary Vueling, but his latest venture has got off to a turbulent start.

Pilots from parent airline Iberia have been striking since December in protest at what they see as a piecemeal outsourcing of their jobs.

But Gallego is unmoved. “We will forge ahead with our plans regardless,” he told the paper.

The FTD suggested he had little choice, as merger partner British Airways was applying considerable pressure. While BA has been in the black for years, last year Iberia recorded a loss of €98 million, a result which moved International Airlines Group chief Willie Walsh to declare, “Iberia’s costs are too high, indeed unacceptably so.”

Gallego said he was keen to make fast progress. “We want to record a profit this year,” he said, acknowledging that Iberia Express was integral to its parent company’s cost-cutting strategy.

The budget airline is projected to save Ibaria company €100 million by 2015, much of it recouped from staff costs that will see Iberia Express pilots pocket on average €4,000 a month less than their colleagues at the main airline.

The planes will also be used more efficiently, spending 10.5 hours a day in the skies, but that still leaves the low-cost airline lagging behind its competitors, whose aircraft regularly notch up 13 hours a day.

This means Iberia Express will struggle to match the prices of other budget carriers. Gallego insists this is not a fatal failing, citing a plan to route transatlantic flights through Madrid and a commitment to justify the relatively lofty fares through “better quality.”

But concerns persist that the project is fundamentally flawed. The FTD suggests that the future may be difficult for an airline that cannot compete with the prices of its budget competitors or the high service standards of more ‘traditional’ carriers like Lufthansa.

In response to Gallego’s pledge that Iberia Express “will offer the same quality of service as Iberia,” the paper rather tartly observes, “The problem with that is that Iberia is already well known for its undistinguished service.”

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BERLIN

EXPLAINED: Berlin’s latest Covid rules

In response to rapidly rising Covid-19 infection rates, the Berlin Senate has introduced stricter rules, which came into force on Saturday, November 27th. Here's what you need to know.

A sign in front of a waxing studio in Berlin indicates the rule of the 2G system
A sign in front of a waxing studio indicates the rule of the 2G system with access only for fully vaccinated people and those who can show proof of recovery from Covid-19 as restrictions tighten in Berlin. STEFANIE LOOS / AFP

The Senate agreed on the tougher restrictions on Tuesday, November 23rd with the goal of reducing contacts and mobility, according to State Secretary of Health Martin Matz (SPD).

He explained after the meeting that these measures should slow the increase in Covid-19 infection rates, which was important as “the situation had, unfortunately, deteriorated over the past weeks”, according to media reports.

READ ALSO: Tougher Covid measures needed to stop 100,000 more deaths, warns top German virologist

Essentially, the new rules exclude from much of public life anyone who cannot show proof of vaccination or recovery from Covid-19. You’ll find more details of how different sectors are affected below.

Shops
If you haven’t been vaccinated or recovered (2G – geimpft (vaccinated) or genesen (recovered)) from Covid-19, then you can only go into shops for essential supplies, i.e. food shopping in supermarkets or to drugstores and pharmacies.

Many – but not all – of the rules for shopping are the same as those passed in the neighbouring state of Brandenburg in order to avoid promoting ‘shopping tourism’ with different restrictions in different states.

Leisure
2G applies here, too, as well as the requirement to wear a mask with most places now no longer accepting a negative test for entry. Only minors are exempt from this requirement.

Sport, culture, clubs
Indoor sports halls will off-limits to anyone who hasn’t  been vaccinated or can’t show proof of recovery from Covid-19. 2G is also in force for cultural events, such as plays and concerts, where there’s also a requirement to wear a mask. 

In places where mask-wearing isn’t possible, such as dance clubs, then a negative test and social distancing are required (capacity is capped at 50 percent of the maximum).

Restaurants, bars, pubs (indoors)
You have to wear a mask in all of these places when you come in, leave or move around. You can only take your mask off while you’re sat down. 2G rules also apply here.

Hotels and other types of accommodation 
Restrictions are tougher here, too, with 2G now in force. This means that unvaccinated people can no longer get a room, even if they have a negative test.

Hairdressers
For close-contact services, such as hairdressers and beauticians, it’s up to the service providers themselves to decide whether they require customers to wear masks or a negative test.

Football matches and other large-scale events
Rules have changed here, too. From December 1st, capacity will be limited to 5,000 people plus 50 percent of the total potential stadium or arena capacity. And only those who’ve been vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 will be allowed in. Masks are also compulsory.

For the Olympic Stadium, this means capacity will be capped at 42,000 spectators and 16,000 for the Alte Försterei stadium. 

Transport
3G rules – ie vaccinated, recovered or a negative test – still apply on the U-Bahn, S-Bahn, trams and buses in Berlin. It was not possible to tighten restrictions, Matz said, as the regulations were issued at national level.

According to the German Act on the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases, people have to wear a surgical mask or an FFP2 mask  on public transport.

Christmas markets
The Senate currently has no plans to cancel the capital’s Christmas markets, some of which have been open since Monday. 

According to Matz, 2G rules apply and wearing a mask is compulsory.

Schools and day-care
Pupils will still have to take Covid tests three times a week and, in classes where there are at least two children who test positive in the rapid antigen tests, then tests should be carried out daily for a week.  

Unlike in Brandenburg, there are currently no plans to move away from face-to-face teaching. The child-friendly ‘lollipop’ Covid tests will be made compulsory in day-care centres and parents will be required to confirm that the tests have been carried out. Day-care staff have to document the results.

What about vaccination centres?
Berlin wants to expand these and set up new ones, according to Matz. A new vaccination centre should open in the Ring centre at the end of the week and 50 soldiers from the German army have been helping at the vaccination centre at the Exhibition Centre each day since last week.

The capacity in the new vaccination centre in the Lindencenter in Lichtenberg is expected to be doubled. There are also additional vaccination appointments so that people can get their jabs more quickly. Currently, all appointments are fully booked well into the new year.

 

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