A new airline is always interesting. When it is backed up and owned by IAG, International Airlines Group which also owns Aer Lingus, British Airways, Iberia and Vueling, this is even more interesting.
LEVEL (I am not sure about the name personally) will join other low-cost carriers like AirAsiaX, Jetstar, Norwegian and Scoot by offering long haul flights.
Most Low-Cost Carriers are short haul as exemplified by EasyJet, Ryanair and Southwest. Long haul Low Cost has proved a very tough egg to crack. AirAsiaX added Europe to Asia flights and then scaled them back in 2012. Jetstar long haul lost Qantas a lot of money. Ryanair has threatened to target the USA but has, up to now, not made an actual attempt to start flights.
Initial LEVEL services will be from Vueling’s hub Barcelona, Spain (BCN). This will allow the low-cost Spanish carrier to funnel passengers from domestic routes onto LEVEL’s international routes. Sevices will be to:
- Los Angeles (LAX), USA on 1st of June
- Oakland (OAK), near San Francsico, USA on 2nd of June. OAK is also used by Norwegian
- Punta Cana, Dominican Republic (PUJ) on 10th of June
- Buenos Aires, Argentina (EZE) on 17th of June
The airline has said fares from LAX to Barcelona will start from $US149/ Euro99 one way. This is cheaper than most fares from LAX to JFK!
The airline has said it is looking at Havana (Cuba), Santiago (Chile) and Tokyo (Japan). It is also looking at expanding to other European cities.
LEVEL will commence services with two 314-seat Airbus A330s flown by Iberia crews and will be subject to the Iberia conditions of carriage. The planes will have 21 Tourist Premium and 293 Tourist Class seats.
Tourist Premium Passengers will all get for free: Checked luggage, cabin bag, meal, seat selection and latest movie releases. Tourist Class Passengers will be able to choose which of those options they want to pay for. In other words, LEVEL’s Tourist Premium will be what all airlines offered as Economy just over a decade ago.
All customers will have access to “next-generation” in-flight entertainment including High Speed internet.
The new carrier will also give passengers the option to collect Avios, the IAG Frequent Flyer currency. These points can be used on the all of the routes operated by BA and Iberia. I assume Premium fliers will get the points thrown in and Economy can choose to buy a package which would include Avios.
IAG also recently shrunk Economy seat sizes in a bid to compete with the low costs. LEVEL is another attempt to counter what Emirates president, Tim Clark described last Friday as “the gathering storm” of lower-cost long-haul travel.
Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker, however, believes the threat of long-haul low-cost carriers has been over stated and that “the model will not succeed.” saying to Business Traveller: “Air Asia is struggling…Norwegian’s nose is just above the water.” He believes low-cost long-haul will struggle with higher oil costs. Interestingly, Qatar own 20 percent of IAG.
LEVEL will soon be joined by an AirFrance-KLM discount airline. The new LCC will fly A340s. Launch date not specified.
What US airlines make of LEVEL will be interesting. They already feel under attack by the major Middle Eastern airlines who they see poaching their premium passenger base. How will they react to the other end of the market being taken by LEVEL and NORWEGIAN? Will we see a relaunch of “Song”?