International Airlines Group (IAG), parent company to British Airways, will start a new long haul low cost carrier (LCC) named LEVEL based at the Barcelona El-Prat Airport (BCN). Taking a page off another LCC, WOW Air, introductory fares start at €99/US$149 one way.
In a statement, Willie Walsh, IAG Chief Executive Officer, said LEVEL would become its fifth airline brand alongside Aer Lingus, British Airways, Iberia and Vueling Airlines.”Barcelona is Vueling’s home base and this will allow customers to connect from Vueling’s extensive European network onto LEVEL’s long-haul flights,” he said. While starting its roots in Barcelona, the new airline will look into other European bases that are underserved by international routes or with a high concentration of low cost carriers flying domestically. “We’re really excited about the opportunities for expansion,” Mr Walsh added.
Route Network and Introductory Pricing
Flights will start on June 1, 2017 onwards with the following schedule:
- Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) (June 1, 2017) and operate twice per week
- San Francisco / Oakland International Airport (OAK) (June 2, 2017) and operate three times per week
- Punta Cana (Dominican Republic) (June 10, 2017) and operate twice per week
- Buenos Aires (June 17, 2017) and operate three times per week
Aircraft and Cabin Amenities
Located behind the Premium Economy section, this cabin has a 2-4-2 configuration. Each seat will have 30″ (76 cm) pitch, 18.1″ (46 cm) width and limited recline. Passengers will have access to a 10″ (25 cm) audio/video on demand inflight entertainment system. This is an improvement over Iberia’s current long haul economy product of 9″ (23 cm).
Located in a separate front cabin, each premium economy seat will have 37″ (94 cm) pitch, 18.9″ (48 cm) width, more recline and a foot rest. Additionally, passengers can enjoy entertainment with a 12″ (30.5 cm) screen and noise cancelling headphones. Pillows, blankets and amenity kits would be provided.
Other Amenities and Frequent Flyer Miles
Since LEVEL uses Iberia’s aircraft and infrastructure, its Wi-Fi fee structure is likely the same starting at €8.99 with a small data allocation). Voice functions from messaging applications (FaceTime, Skype and WhatsApp calls) are not allowed.
Frequent Flyer Miles Earn and Redeem Rates
LEVEL does not currently has its own frequent flyer program. Passengers can instead earn and redeem Avios miles for LEVEL flights within the Iberia Plus program.
Members will earn Avios miles and elite tier points at a rate of:
|Cabin||Booking class||Avios (by distance flown)||Elite Tier Points (by segment flown)|
|PREMIUM ECONOMY (FLEXIBLE)||W||150%||225|
|PREMIUM ECONOMY (PROMOTIONAL)||E, T||100%||160|
|FLEXIBLE||Y, B, H||100%||140|
|OPTIMAL||K, M, L||50%||75|
|BASIC+||V, S, N||25%||75|
|LEVEL||Q, O, A||10%||40|
AVIOS REDEMPTION CHART (per one way) – PEAK SEASON
|Bands||Economy||Full Fare Economy||Premium Economy||Upgrade|
|6 (4.001 – 5.500)||25.000 Avios||35.000 Avios||43.750 Avios||18.750 Avios|
|7 (5.501 – 6.500)||30.000 Avios||42.000 Avios||52.500 Avios||22.500 Avios|
AVIOS REDEMPTION CHART (per one way) – OFF-PEAK SEASON
|Bands||Blue Class||Full Fare Economy||Premium Economy||Upgrade|
|6 (4.001 – 5.500)||21.250 Avios||27.750 Avios||31.750 Avios||10.500 Avios|
|7 (5.501 – 6.500)||25.500 Avios||33.250 Avios||38.250 Avios||12.750 Avios|
– Band 6: Los Ángeles, San Francisco y Punta Cana.
– Band 7: Buenos Aires.Since LEVEL is not part of the oneworld alliance, flights flown will not have any earn or redeem value outside of Iberia Plus.
Observations and Conclusion
IAG created LEVEL to feed passengers primarily from its Vueling subsidiary to long haul operations. Here is an initial list of observations from the new venture:
- The new airline takes on many characteristics of a traditional network carrier including free meals (except for one fare group), free in flight entertainment and one free full size carry on baggage. These features are typically add ons or not offered by long haul LCCs.
- The new airline will be operated by Iberia crew and pilots intially. This may lead to higher operational costs at launch.
- Passengers initiate booking inside LEVEL’s website but finish at Iberia’s website. This could lead to brand confusion. It was not immediately clear that frequent flyer miles / elite tier points can only be earned with Iberia Plus instead of all Avios airline partners.
- Passengers whose fares did not include seat selection can pay €15-30 (US$17-33) to select one in advance.
- Passengers whose fares did not include a meal can pay €35 (US$37.5) in advance to receive one on board. No choices are given. Special meals are shown to be free for the time being.
- Passengers whose fares did not include checked baggage can pay €40 (US$44) in advance for one. There is no option to pay for more during initial booking.
- No fuel surcharges are added to the ticket price. During the introductory period, ticket prices are at least 30% less for each fare group on LEVEL versus other oneworld options listed by Iberia. It is possible that total price for a LEVEL fare ticket with check in baggage and meal options added could be higher than the BASIC+ fare ticket which includes these options for free.
- It was not immediately clear that passengers would have to pay more at the airport for amenities not paid in advance. Additionally, passengers are not given choices to buy WiFi access, VIP lounge access, tours, hotels, car rentals or duty free products. Additional advanced purchase features are typically offered by long haul LCCs. Some options like VIP lounge access and car rentals are available by Vueling.
- While the goal is to connect Vueling’s passengers to the long haul network, these passengers cannot currently use that airline’s website to book the new flights. However, LEVEL’s customers can connect onto Vueling’s flights when booked through Iberia. All flights are coded as IB26xx.
- Third party booking sites or search engines such as Expedia, Kayak and Google Flight all showed Iberia’s logo or the word “Iberia” first. None showed LEVEL’s logo. This could confuse passengers. Additionally, Expedia incorrectly showed that an S fare ticket would only get “food for purchase”.
- There is no standalone mobile application for LEVEL. Passengers can book flights through the Iberia app but cannot pay for seat selection, meals, check in baggage in advance.
IAG is operating a new virtual airline named LEVEL. Passengers would be happy to know that they will enjoy free amenities that are not typically provided by LCCs while paying lower prices for the same flights operated by other network carriers. At the lower price points, they will have to forego earning some frequent flyer miles and elite tier points. In the next entry, we will examine how LEVEL fares against long haul LCC competitors with flights to North America.