Founded in 2011 by Carlos Muñoz and Lázaro Ros, the men who created Barcelona-based Vueling Airlines, Volotea is a low-cost Spanish airline focused on underserved European cities. Derived from the Spanish verb “revolotear,” meaning “to fly around, Volotea started life with a leased fleet of Boeing 717-200 aircraft. After first looking at the Bombardier CRJ1000 and the Embraer E-195, Volotea went with the Boeing 717 after Southwest Airlines acquired AirTran and replaced its 717 fleet.
With its 3+2 seating configuration, the Boeing 717-200 is a derivative of the McDonnell Douglas MD-95 that can transport up to 134 passengers. At the time, Volotea saw the aircraft and its two rear-mounted Rolls-Royce BR715 turbofan engines as the ideal plane for its short-haul European operations. Being not just focused on the Spanish domestic markets, Volotea’s first revenue flight took off from Venice Marco Polo Airport (VCE) on 5 April 2012. Within its first year of operations, Volotea flew 90 routes, of which nearly half were suspended within two years.
Volotea is focused on mid-size European cities
With its focus on mid-sized underserved European capitals, Volotea serves more than 100 cities across 16 countries, including four in the North African countries of Algeria and Morocco. During the 2017–18 Spanish constitutional crisis in which some people called for Catalonian independence from Spain, Volotea voluntarily moved its headquarters from Barcelona to Asturias Airport (OVD) in northwest Spain.
By keeping its fares comparable to other European low-cost carriers Volotea has managed to grow at a sustainable rate and currently operates out of the following European airports:
- Asturias Airport (OVD)
- Athens International Airport (ATH)
- Bilbao Airport (BIO)
- Bordeaux Airport (BOD)
- Cagliari Elmas Airport (CAG)
- Genoa Christopher Columbus Airport (GOA)
- Hamburg Airport (HAM)
- Lyon–Saint-Exupéry Airport (LYS)
- Marseille Provence Airport (MRS)
- Nantes Atlantique Airport (NTE)
- Naples International Airport (NAP)
- Olbia Costa Smeralda Airport (OLB)
- Palermo Falcone Borsellino Airport (PMO)
- Strasbourg Airport (SXB)
- Toulouse–Blagnac Airport (TLS)
- Venice Marco Polo Airport (VCE)
- Verona Villafranca Airport (VRN)
Volotea decided to become an all-Airbus airline
With its business plan growing as expected, Volotea decided that the 125 seat Boeing 717 was not big enough for future demand and decided to switch to the Airbus A319-100. In March of 2016, Volotea received its first 150 seat Airbus A310-100 which increased capacity by 20% compared to the Boeing 717. At the time, Volotea was already committed to becoming an all-Airbus airline as it gradually retired its Boeing 717s.
As the COVID-19 pandemic began to decimate the airline industry, Volotea was better placed than others as it provided links between European city’s that other operators did not serve. Taking advantage of the situation and acquiring used aircraft at a reasonable price, Volotea started to look at the Airbus A320 as the way forward. By incorporating the Airbus A320 into its fleet, Volotea would once more increase capacity by a further 15%. When speaking about why it wanted to become an all-Airbus airline Volotea said it would benefit the airline in the following ways:
- A single pilot license
- Lower maintenance costs
- More environmentally friendly
- Reduce noise impact on the city’s it operates in
Volotea sees Airbus as a long-term partner
When speaking about the move to become an all-Airbus airline in a 2021 company statement, founder and CEO of Volotea Carlos Muñoz said:
“We are very proud to move towards a 100% Airbus fleet. As a European company, we are very keen to count on Airbus as our fleet partner long-term. We will continue growing on our strategy of connecting mid and small European cities with a more modern and competitive aircraft type, the Airbus A320, which has 20-25% lower operational costs than the previous B717s it replaces. This increased competitiveness will be very necessary in a post-COVID environment, which may mean lower demand for the coming years. This change will also help us to be in the best position to take advantage of large new opportunities ahead, such as the one created in Spain through the acquisition of Air Europa by Iberia and in France by the restructuring of France’s regional market.”
With Volotea retiring its last Boeing 717 in January 2021, the current fleet comprises 20 Airbus A310-100s and 20 Airbus A320-200s.
Have you ever flown with Volotea? If so, please tell us what you think about them in the comments.