On the heels of Air France introducing its own low cost subsidiary Joon for a September 2017 launch (Related News – Air France Unveiled New Low Cost Carrier Named Joon), International Airlines Group (IAG) announced it has ordered additional aircrafts for its similar LEVEL subsidiary and expands operations to Buenos Aires.
LEVEL is a low cost carrier which started operations back in June 1, 2017 serving four destinations (Los Angeles (LAX), Oakland-San Francisco Bay (OAK), Punta Cana (PUJ) and Buenos Aires (EZE) from its base at Barcelona–El Prat Airport (BCN) (Related News – Low Cost Carrier LEVEL Starts Operations). With great fanfare from low introductory pricing (noted below) , the airline has seen initial results which led to an expansion of its Buenos Aires flights from three to five times weekly (starting on October 29, 2017) less than two months after launch.
IAG which also owns British Airways, Aer Lingus, Vueling and Iberia exercised three options of Airbus A330-200s into firm orders with a delivery date around Summer 2018. The timing is interesting as Joon’s expected long-haul operations will commerce at the same time.
IAG’s CEO Willie Walsh spoke of the order, “LEVEL has already been incredibly successful and these aircraft will enable it to expand. Long-haul flights are now available to many people for the first time and we’re extremely pleased with the customer response in all of LEVEL’s markets. It will continue to stimulate demand by providing people with more choice.”
Vueling and Iberia Combination
While the attention grabbing fares have disappeared, Experience The Skies can still find some EUR189 (tax included) one way tickets from Barcelona to Oakland-San Francisco Bay within a month of travel. This is something that was not seen until LEVEL’s introduction in the city. As an additional benefit to travellers, they do not have to buy a roundtrip ticket as part of this itinerary.
Speaking of Vueling, IAG remediated one of the early booking problems of not showing LEVEL’s flights on Vueling.com. Passengers can now book an itinerary on Vueling with a connection on LEVEL without any technical issues. They will be notified before booking that the lowest fare will not be entitled to food, baggage allowance or seat assignment at booking (as shown below). Passenger can choose to move up one fare category to receive these items as required.
The Iberia, Vueling and LEVEL combination allows IAG to control both short and long haul markets at different price points. No thrill travellers at home with Vueling will feel at ease that their needs would be met by LEVEL’s lowest fare class while still be able to enjoy free in flight entertainment and paid Wi-Fi. That is an advantage over WOW Air which offers neither or Norwegian Air Shuttle which does not offer Wi-Fi on transatlantic flights.
Future Expansion Possibilities
LEVEL has many expansion possibilities without entrenching into Iberia’s North American network (Boston (BOS), Chicago (ORD), Miami (MIA), Mexico City (MEX), New York (JFK) and San Juan (SJU). Their only overlaps in the network is Los Angeles (LAX).
From Barcelona, LEVEL can expand into Newark (EWR), Fort Lauderdale (FLL), Orlando (MCO), Las Vegas (LAS) and Dallas/Fort-Worth (DFW) to start. Outside of Dallas, the airline will not receive as much feeder traffic. This should not deter the airline from expanding to these more leisure, Spanish speaking or secondary U.S. destinations.
From North America, the only low cost competition offering non-stop flights to Barcelona would be seasonal service on Air Canada Rouge from Toronto (YYZ) and Montreal (YUL) and Air Transat from Montreal.