Details Of LEVEL, IAG’s New Transatlantic Low Cost Airline

IAG, the parent company of British Airways, Aer Lingus, Iberia, and Vueling, has been saying for a while that they plan on starting a new longhaul low cost carrier. Legacy carriers globally are struggling to compete with Gulf carriers (like Emirates) as well as low cost carriers (like Norwegian). So IAG is taking the “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” approach, by launching a new low cost carrier based in Barcelona.

LEVEL, IAG’s new low cost carrier, will initially operate two A330s between Barcelona and the U.S. West Coast (Los Angeles and Oakland), with quick growth after that. Tickets go on sale today at flylevel.com, and start at $149 one-way.

LEVEL-A330

In June of this year LEVEL will be launching service between Barcelona and four destinations:

  • Flights to Los Angeles start on June 1, 2017 and operate twice per week
  • Flights to Oakland start on June 2, 2017 and operate three times per week
  • Flights to Punta Cana start on June 10, 2017 and operate twice per week
  • Flights to Buenos Aires start on June 17, 2017 and operate three times per week

LEVEl-Destinations

Here’s some more information, per the press release:

International Airlines Group (IAG) is launching LEVEL – a new low cost longhaul airline brand that will take to the skies in June 2017 with flights from Los Angeles and San Francisco (Oakland) to Barcelona.

LEVEL will fly two new Airbus A330 aircraft branded in its own livery and fitted with 293 economy and 21 premium economy seats. Initially it will be operated by Iberia’s flight and cabin crew.

Barcelona has been chosen as the first European destination for the launch of IAG’s new operation but LEVEL will look to expand its flights to other European cities.

Fares start from US$149 one way and tickets go on sale today at flylevel.com.

As you can see, these A330s will be in quite a dense configuration, featuring a total of 314 seats. Economy will feature 30″ of pitch with 9″ screens at every seat, and will be in a 2-4-2 configuration.

LEVEL-A330-Interior

Meanwhile premium economy will feature 37″ of pitch with 12″ screens, and seats will be in a 2-3-2 configuration (this is significantly less pitch than in Norwegian’s premium class, which has 46″ of pitch).

LEVEL-Premium-Economy

While the A330s will initially fly to four destinations out of Barcelona, over time they’ll expand service to other European destinations, meaning that the airline will operate point-to-point routes, rather than just have a hub-and-spoke system. That being said, for Barcelona flights they do have the benefit of being able to provide feed to/from Vueling, given that it’s their hub.

The flights will initially be staffed by Iberia employees, though over time LEVEL will hire their own pilots and cabin crew, and I imagined they’ll be on a significantly lower pay scale.

What can we expect in terms of the onboard product?

Checked luggage (in addition to a free cabin bag), meals, seat selection and the latest movie releases will be complimentary for customers flying in premium economy. Those travelling in economy can chose what they want to buy based on a menu of choices. All customers will have access to next generation inflight technology with a wide range of onboard entertainment options. High speed internet connectivity will be available with prices starting at €8.99.

Those flying LEVEL will be able to earn Avios, though I imagine at highly reduced rates. British Airways awards just 25% Avios for some of their own fares, so I imagine they’ll award even fewer Avios for travel on LEVEL, at least for the cheapest fares.

LEVEL will have six types of fares, with the following services for each fare:

LEVEL-Fares

As you can see, everyone gets free entertainment and some number of Avios. Meanwhile everyone not booking “LEVEL” fares will receive a free meal, and some fares come with free seat assignments.

Bottom line

LEVEL is clearly IAG’s response to Norwegian, which has been giving British Airways, Iberia, etc., quite some competition in many of their markets. Typically when major airlines try to launch low cost subsidiaries it doesn’t work out, though maybe they’ll have better luck here. Assuming they can get the cost structure right, I could see them doing quite well.

What do you make of LEVEL? Would you consider flying them?

(Tip of the hat to Economy Class & Beyond)

Comments

  1. They will have difficulty selling that Y+ for a premium as it looks almost the same as the Y seat and doesn’t have much pitch.
    Is the A330 the right plane for this If they can only fit 8 across in Y rather than 9?

  2. British airways act like a low cost carrier, charging for sodas and business class seat assignment. Now they knee space is lower than Ryan air. It’s about time they should price their tickets like one.

  3. It’s over 13 hrs to Buenos Aires. No meal and 30″ seat pitch isn’t going to be very appealing. And the premium seat looks pretty poor compared to Norwegian, the main rival.

    Using IB crew and an A330 isn’t the best way to be going to be low cost either. Looks like a mish mash of ideas…not an impressive start.

  4. @niko & Brian – for the right price, people would stand the whole way. There’s plenty of people who would rather go uncomfortably than not go at all because they cant afford it.
    Agree this seems rushed and not thought out properly. Why didn’t they poach people from Norwegian if they are the gold standard in long-haul LCCs?

  5. I don’t see how they can initially be competitive with Norwegian. Only two planes to work with. If one goes tech, they’ll be in big trouble.

    Also Norwegian is already fairly well known. I can’t imagine people will just willfully fly a “new” airline just because it’s 20€ cheaper than a known one. We’ll see…

  6. Wow, that being said Google Flights is showing up as Iberia flights for 199€ to LAX return. Which is about 500€ less than Norwegian… Ok, well maybe they might get some initial customers after all.

    That being said, their premium economy pricing is way too high at 1243€.

  7. @ niko jas You’re not disallowed a meal … you just have to pay for it. I doubt many people can afford a $500 plane ticket but not a $5 meal. Will some people complain about lack of free meal on such a long flight? Obviously yes… but the fare chart is pretty clear, so I don’t really sympathize.

  8. Ironic that they’re offering free seat selection to Y and W fares which is something you don’t even get on BA anymore…

  9. They’d have a advantage if they’re able to reroute on other AIG flights in the event of irregular ops.

  10. @scudder but all their flights are direct to/from BCN, with presumably little feeder traffic until they figure out how to work their ticketing system in with Vueling. Imagine a plane at OAK or LAX goes tech for an extended period of time. How do they get 300 people back to BCN or wherever they originated from quick?

  11. Vueling, Iberia Express, and now Level. How many low costs do Iberia need?

    Air New Zealand offer similar fare options on their trans-Tasman flights. Meal services are always chaotic, trying to work out which passengers should receive a meal and which shouldn’t, made worse by the fact the lowest fares don’t come with seat assignments, so people often try to swap seats so they can sit together, worsening the meal confusion.

  12. @Benjaminjtravel
    You don’t think 7″ extra pitch is a significant upgrade between Economy and Premium Economy? I take it you’re, er, short?

    As someone on the taller side, the single most important thing to me about an airline seat is the pitch. It’s one of only two areas in life where an extra inch or two can make such a massive difference to personal pleasure.

    And can I just add what a great livery that is. Very smooth; rather classy.

  13. @Paul 7″ is a decent upgrade. But according to their current pricing, Y+ costs 1000€ more than their basic level for a return ticket. Doesn’t seem to justify the small level of upgrade.

  14. @Paul – theyre selling it as Y+, not MCE/Extra Pitch Y. That means all aspects of the product should be premium to Y. So far it looks like a Y seat with a bit more leg room and a meal.

  15. Maybe they can team up with EVEN hotels 🙂 Sorry couldn’t help it.

    I’m not that excited. I really don’t see that San Fran or LA needs more lift to Europe at this point. Especially not on a super long flight with no leg room.

    I might be interested in this airline if they had more airports in the USA as they expand AND you could redeem Avios at a super low rate to get to Europe, maybe.

  16. @justin If only it were $5 for a meal! The flight pricing is already on Iberia website. The lowest fare is 128€ one way to EZE but choose the next level up which is the Basic fare and the price jumps to 243€. Thats a huge premium for 1 bag and a meal and hardly low cost. Worryingly it says only one seat left at 128€ for the flight i found. So most people won’t get that low fare. Low cost in name and service but not so much in price. Like Vueling really.

  17. Another scam, usual thing with Iberia, you chose the dates and it takes you to Iberia page where the costs are HUGE. A real scam worth denouncing

  18. I have to say, aweful website and colors but hey, <200€ for crossing the atlantic. I think many people (ie leisure travellers) will be tempted.
    Only question for me is how long will they keep this price and what are surcharges for luggage, meals etc. (Iberia returns an error when trying to proceed booking).
    It will be interesting to see how they will finetune connections, which at this point is giving me a hard time.
    I'ld put their product next to Eurowings, which I consider to be less stable than WOW! or Norwegian. I do love, though, to follow this evolution and see where this is going and where the all-time-low will find its place.

    As always, LCCs aren't the type of carriers you should discuss on this website with biased people looking to get awesome advantages by travelling often. On the other hand, people looking for a bargain sure are at the right address.

  19. OK, so website working now. Booked two exit row seats BCN-OAK for 9/12/17 for $275.86 USD total. Quite a deal.

  20. At least Level starts with brand new planes unlike Eurowings where they had serious reliability issues with used planes coming in from other airlines.

  21. I live in LA. Although I am not the market for this opportunity and will not be flying with Level, I think BCN will be very attractive for many price sensitive passengers here. The question for IAG is will the low price point be sustainable relative to the cost structure.

  22. Tickets in Buenos Aires lasted 2 hours only. All gone. Until Feb 2018. You can only find IB regular prices now. IB web page down, phones collapsed. Mayhem.

  23. The “Refund” row on the chart makes no sense. Certain more restrictive fares can refund for a fee, but the most expensive fares cannot?

  24. For my Argentinian friends that never had the money to go to Europe, this will be their chance

  25. “Typically when major airlines try to launch low cost subsidiaries it doesn’t work out, though maybe they’ll have better luck here.”

    Eurowings and Vueling would suggest otherwise. We’re a long way from Ted, Song and Go.

  26. I know you are looking at LAX and OAK flights, but for Argentina (where I live) they are interesting prices. But… Is it worth it? In my opinion NO, it’s a really long flight for that seat configuration. We should wait the first reaction when they start to fly, as someone say above, flights from EZE lasted 2 hours.

  27. I live in San Francisco and I want to visit some Countries, can you let me know whenever you have a good deal?

  28. The only people complaining about this are those not from LAX (or not traveling this summer from LAX). No one has said this, but there are NO direct flights from BCN to LAX…until now. I was waiting for two months to book a flight award that was worth it before I booked a $570 O/W flight on Norweigan b/c THAT was the cheapest. Now i’m going for $270, a full $300 less, for the same stuff. And direct. I’d take that 12 hour flight over 17 hours and 2 more inches of pitch.

    This is MAJOR and good for short term. In the long term, hopefully it will get other airlines to add BCN-LAX direct routes (as well as MAD-LAX). But for now, there is simply no other competition for this summer.

  29. When you going to fly to Las Vegas ?
    Lot of people from Easter Europe fly from Las Vegas to Frankfurt and connect to there country.

  30. @Henry Sondej

    Norwegian tried flying from Las Vegas, and gave it up during the hotter months.

    When it gets over about 100F (38C), the air gets to thin for them to take off fully loaded.

    I suppose they could have reduced the passenger list by 20% and make it up by raising prices, but for their own reasons they decided not to.

  31. I booked a flight to Punta Cana yesterday when it was being advertised online as an Iberia error fare. Got tickets for €300 return over Christmas.

    Who cares about the size of the seat and the lack of meal for that price? There’s no other possible way I could afford to spend Christmas in the Caribbean

  32. I booked oakland -Barcelona for 300$usd I don’t know how anyone can complain about this, for a student with not much income at this rate it’s hard to pass up even if the flight is not that comfortable. To be able to afford to go to Europe at this price is the best deal you can find. Why are people so negative about this?

  33. @Matt

    Norwegian is starting LAX to BCN direct in June. I’ve flown Norwegian long haul (CPH-LAX), and I found it to be the same comfort level as BA (in economy). I can imagine that 30 inch pitch on LEVEL will not have the same comfort level as non-low budget carriers (nor the same as Norwegian).

  34. I would only fly premium economy with this airline that 30″ seat pitch would be painful to me. Of course by time you add food and bags to basic economy you might as well fly premium economy

  35. I see some comments and can´t avoid smiling at some of them. Guys, crossing the atlantic for those of us who live in Argentina in high season (summer holidays – January or winter holidays-July) or reaching Spain non stop costs AT LEAST USD 1100-1300. Level is offering tickets as low as USD 400. That is 3 times less!!! 30″ pitch, paying for luggage or for food…who cares? People need to fly and they are being able to do it at this price. It is one of the reasons they claim to have sold 100.000 tickets in a few weeks. Things went crazy here in Argentina when people started hearing about this offer. Tickets lasted only 1-2 hours. Iberia´s website crashed. Don´t even think of using the phone to contact them. Its madness. Same thing will happen when Norweigan starts flying down here.

  36. I wish they would start flying out of Atlanta in the very near future to Barcelona and other points in the EU for that price or better. Why did they make this deal so good for LA and San Francisco instead of airports in Atlanta or New York city?

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