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Iberia claims it is part of a department store and not an airline to avoid Brexit shutdown

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Yes, in a dose of Brexit inspired madness, BA’s sister airline Iberia has made a surprising revelation: it is not actually a subsidiary of a major international aviation group. 

It is, in fact, part of Spanish department store group El Corte Ingles.  Which, admittedly, could explain a lot but came as a bit of a surprise none the less.

Iberia claims to be owned by El Corte Ingles

It turns out that the corporate equivalent of a recent DNA test has proved that Iberia and British Airways are not actually brother and sister.  Iberia’s sister companies actually include:

Iberia claims to be owned by El Corte Ingles

…… a small chain of Spanish opticians.  Whilst we thought Iberia was related to Aer Lingus, it actually spent Christmas with BriCor, which appears to be the Spanish version of B&Q (they are doing 20% off sheds at the moment).

If you think I’m making this up, take a read at El Pais here.

Why does Iberia claim to be a department store subsidiary?

Here’s the thing.  Only airlines which have 50.1% EU ownership have ‘flying rights’ to operate between two airports within the EU. 

Iberia is owned by BA’s parent, International Airlines Group.  Whilst IAG is based in Madrid, it does NOT have 50.1% EU ownership if you look at the shareholder register.  Qatar Airways, for example, has a 21% shareholding in IAG.

If the UK leaves the EU without an aviation treaty being agreed, as would happen in the event of a ‘no deal’ Brexit, Iberia could be grounded.  Iberia has thought of this and actually put this bizarre structure in place back in 2011 when IAG was created, except that no-one took any notice at the time.

Whilst 100% of the ‘economic rights’ to Iberia’s revenue and profitability are owned by IAG, it turns out that 50.01% of Iberia’s ‘political rights’ are owned by the El Corte Ingles department store chain.

It is now up to the European Commission to decide if Iberia is actually:

owned by a multinational airline business with over 50.1% of its shareholders outside the ‘ex UK’ EU, in which case it could be grounded at the end of March, or

a sister company to a handful of department stores, an opticians and a DIY chain

You can find more at El Pais here.

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Comments (68)

  • Simon says:

    I am travelling Saturday 30th March Heathrow to Madrid 07:35. I expect one of the first HfP readers to fly after Brexit, assuming the 29/3/19 date holds.

    Have to say really not concerned. Even though a flight out to Madrid Friday evening for the connecting flight to Cuba Saturday is possible, quite happy to take my chances with flights operating normally and no planes dropping out of the sky come brexit.

    Surely even the EU understand this is in their best interests.

    Of course, post Brexit, UK carriers flying between EU (and therefore non-UK) airports could well be a different matter…..

    • Rui N. says:

      The EU already announced that even if there is no deal, for one year after 29/3/19 they will allow all flights to and from the UK that are already schedule to go as planned, regardless of the legal technicalities with ownership&control issues and traffic rights. If anyone can screw up in here is the UK (like in the rest of the Brexit mess). The EU certainly has many problems, but when it comes to the practical stuff they are usually much better than the regular govt bureacracy.

      • David says:

        I’ve seen an EU Commissioners’ proposal, but I’m unclear if it has been agreed by the relevant member states – have you information that this has happened?

    • Tony says:

      I will be one of the last as flying Uk/Spain late on the 29th to escape.

    • Lady London says:

      Wonder what Ryanair’s doing? they’re pretty smart…

      Brexit hasn;t helped because the airlines I watch have expanded far ore to European destinations than to UK destinations, in the past year or two. this has already taken business and jobs away from the UK. They saw the writing on the wall and it’s not good. They want to be in Europe and will.

    • vol says:

      I’m flying back to the UK from Madrid on 29th March

      Just in time to see the fallout of Brexit 🙄😄

  • Patrick says:

    El Corte Inglés has outstanding service and always goes above and beyond its service commitment.

    There is in no credible way Iberia or BA could have any relationship to El Corte Inglés.

  • Anna says:

    My last day at work will be March 29th, very appropriate!

  • Navara says:

    I’m due to fly back from Malta on the 4th April after disembarking from a cruise originating in the UAE. Hope they make me stay.

  • KevMc says:

    OT but Iberia related – has anyone seen/heard any data points regarding cancelling Iberia flights booked using the promo points? My wife and I have flights booked from MAD to MEX in February, but she is now pregnant and has been advised not to go due to the possible Zika risk.

    I’m just a little concerned that if we cancel, we will lose our 180k promo points…

    • Genghis says:

      MEX itself is not in a Zika potential area: altitude too high.

      • KevMc says:

        Yes, I pointed that out to them, but they still insisted that it was a risk and the wife is extremely risk-averse, so she now doesn’t want to go at all.

        • Margaret says:

          Contact Iberia and explain the pregnancy. Apparently someone on the flyertalk Iberia forum was given their points back after a major change of flight times.

  • Oli says:

    I will be flying back from India to London on 30th March, taking off a couple of hours after Brexit. I hold a EU passport – will be interesting to trial what happens at passport control in LHR.

    • Anna says:

      Well it would be nice to have a separate lane for UK citizens like they have for US citizens entering the USA.

      • David says:

        Why do you say that?

        Ridiculous.

      • Blue Mountains says:

        Oh indeed it’d be lovely. What would also be nice to have is a separate lane for EU citizens entering the EU, with British citizens stuck on the slow visa lane… Careful what you wish…