Iberia says low-cost carrier will start flying on March 25

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Spanish airline Iberia's new low-cost carrier Iberia Express, whose creation has been stiffly opposed by unions, will operate its first flight on March 25, company president Antonio Vasquez said Monday.

Iberia argues the move is needed to help it compete with other low-cost carriers but employees of the airline fear it will lead to job losses and lower salaries.

Iberia pilots have already announced stoppages in protest for January 25, 27 and 30 following two earlier strikes in December and early January.

The airline, which merged with British Airways in 2011, struck a deal Friday aimed at stopping ground staff from going ahead with a threat to join pilots in striking to protest the creation of the new low-cost carrier.

"The first flight by Iberia Express will take place on March 25," said Vasquez, before adding that the opposition from the airline's pilots was "bearable but not reasonable" because the strikes were costing Iberia money.

"The door to negotiations is open," added Vasquez, who is also chairman of International Airlines Group, the parent company of Iberia and British Airways.

Iberia says the pilots' strikes later this month would cause 289 flight cancellations over the three days, mostly within Spain and Europe.

© 2012 AFP

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