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Reviewed by:
  • Las Alas de España: Iberia, Líneas Aéreas (1940–2005)
  • Veronica Binda
Javier Vidal Olivares. Las Alas de España: Iberia, Líneas Aéreas (1940–2005). Valencia, Spain: Universidad de Valencia, 2008. 268 pp. ISBN 978-84-370-7084-1. €22 (paper).

In recent times as never before, airlines all over the world have faced very tough times. In a changing competitive environment, many companies had been thrown into profound crisis and have had to engage in consistent restructuring and recovery plans in order to survive. Based on the history of Iberia, Spain's national airline, this interesting book by Javier Vidal Olivares, author of well-known works on the history of railways in Spain, makes an important contribution to the long-term analysis of the aeronautical sector and to our understanding of the current situation.

Following a brief introduction and a broad overview of the transformation of air transport between 1945 and 2000, the volume is structured around five central themes: Iberia's origins, performance, markets, human resources, and corporate image. In the first pages devoted to the company, Javier Vidal Olivares describes how Iberia was established thanks to a German initiative in 1927 and how the control of the company shifted from Lufthansa to the Spanish state-owned holding INI in 1944. Then, the author analyzes the performance of Iberia in terms of the historical perspective and notes that even though the company's aims during the Francisco Franco's regime were often more "political" (connected with the Franco's international relations policies) than economic, the airline enjoyed its most prosperous years between the 1950s and the mid-1970s, thanks largely to a very strong increase in tourist transportation to Spain. The post-Franco democratic period brought new opportunities to the firm but it was also during this period that the company faced two profound crises. The first one was caused by the oil shocks of the 1970s and the difficult political transition toward democracy, while the second one was closely connected to unsuitable choices during a period of increasing competition.

The different geographical markets in which Iberia operated were undoubtedly an important aspect when it comes to evaluating its long-term behavior and performance. Vidal Olivares devotes a great deal of space in particular to the analysis of the relations between the company and Latin America, which historically has been one of the firm's main strategic markets. After that, the author focuses on Iberia's human resources from 1940s up to the present day. For this section, he considers both employees and managers, which are effectively described in a series of fascinating short biographies based on their strong ideas and relationships with political power. Finally, [End Page 187] the author offers an analysis of the corporate image policies adopted by the company and its related advertising campaigns. These are effectively documented in an interesting and enjoyable photographic section.

Today, as a consequence of a long restructuring process that was started during the 1990s, Iberia is a private firm managed by professional executives. It is a medium-sized company at the international level, it participates in important air commercial alliances, and it controls 20 percent of the traffic between Latin America and Europe. In the last chapter, Vidal Olivares analyzes the most recent challenges faced by Iberia within the framework of the privatization of the company and the liberalization of the commercial airlines sector all over the world. The author argues that this new environment has created a more competitive market as a result of the entry of many low-cost airlines, and argues that this has created a more competitive environment for Iberia. Under these circumstances, Iberia's future is uncertain and its success will depend on the exploitation of the skills and experience developed by the company in the fascinating story described in this book.

Las Alas de España is scientifically very sound, based on extensive work conducted using the INI's and Iberia's archives, secondary sources, and interviews. The volume bridges a substantial gap. Even if Iberia is one of the few Spanish companies that has become well known internationally over many decades, despite the fact that...


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pp. 187-188
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