BUENOS AIRES – Iberia Airlines on Wednesday said that, as it celebrates 70 years of operations in Latin America, it is a company in the process of “renovation and reinvention” after having reversed its millions of dollars in annual losses over the past few years and with its leadership in on-time flight arrivals and departures as one of its secret weapons.
The “70 years uniting Spain and Latin America” information forum organized by Agencia EFE, Spain’s international news agency – and with the participation of Argentine government officials and the leaders of some of the most important firms collaborating with Iberia – was the main event staged to commemorate the fact that on Sept. 22, 1946, an Iberia aircraft departed for the first time from Madrid en route to Buenos Aires.
“For us, Latin America has always been our raison d’etre, although we have a vocation as a global airline,” emphasized Iberia president Luis Gallego during his address, remarking that the firm does the greater part of its business in the region.
Having served in his capacity as company chief since 2014, Gallego also did not hesitate to admit that the firm had been on the verge of not celebrating its 70th anniversary.
“The truth is that either we had to change the company radically or this firm would have disappeared,” he said.
Along those lines, he emphasized the importance of “turning (the company) around” in terms of operating results, something that can be seen when one notes that in 2012 the firm lost 352 million euros ($394 million) and in 2013 “half a million euros ($560,000) per day,” but in 2014 it earned 50 million euros ($56 million) in operating profits and last year that figure increased to 247 million euros ($276 million).
Currently, Iberia, which leads the airline industry in traffic between Latin America and Europe with 250 weekly flights, has 16,500 employees, a figure lower than before its restructuring, when there were 20,500 people on the payroll.
The forum kicked off with remarks by EFE president Jose Antonio Vera, who emphasized the airline’s “pioneering” character by enumerating a series of landmarks, including being the first “to unite Europe and the Americas,” the characteristics of its privatization process and the alliance with international firms that served as a model for other companies.
Iberia’s activities and presence in Argentina were noted by Argentine Media and Public Content Minister Hernan Lombardi, who was also on hand at the forum and emphasized that a “fantastic cultural change” is underway in his country in terms of how it relates to the world.
“There have been difficulties in relations but we’re convinced that the strengthening (of ties) with the entire world, but in particular with Spain, is an essential part of our vision, part of a significant improvement in the lives of our citizens,” Lombardi said.
The leaders of several international firms that have enjoyed some of the longest cooperative relationships with Iberia also congratulated the airline at the forum, including Airbus president for Latin America and the Caribbean Rafael Alonso, American Express Spain president Juan Orti Ochoa de Ocariz, along with the Avis vehicle rental firm, the Melia hotel chain and El Corte Ingles.
In 2015, Iberia was the second-most-punctual airline in the world and was ranked as the most punctual in Europe, and today its 136 aircraft offer 600 daily flights to 125 destinations.