LEVEL airline has thrown its hat into the ring to compete in the low-cost international carrier market and has put together an ambitious five-year plan to become the first choice for customers travelling to and from Europe, featuring new routes and new planes.
LEVEL airlines are the wholly owned subsidiary of the International Airlines Group (IAG), created as a merger between British Airways and Iberia Airways in 2011. LEVEL’s purpose is to be a competitor to the long haul low-cost airline Norwegian Air, which has been very successful in Europe, becoming the third largest low-cost carrier after EasyJet and Ryan Air respectively.
However, while LEVEL was initially designed to just tap into the Europe market (Based out of the hub of Barcelona and servicing Spain, France and the UK), with the popular success of long-haul low-cost routes to trans-Atlantic destinations, it has prompted them to look at expanding with a new five-year plan.
Their new transatlantic hub will be based out of Paris Orly Airport (ORY) and start new routes to Montreal (The largest destination of French travel outside of France, and the 2nd largest French-speaking population in the western hemisphere), New York Newark, Guadeloupe and Martinique. To staff these new routes, they will be transferring staff from the other French airline operated by IAG, OpenSkys.
Additionally, Barcelona will see new routes to Buenos Aires, Los Angeles, Oakland and Boston.
Naturally, with the addition of 8 new routes, this expansion will require new aircraft to handle these new destinations. CEO Willie Walsh of International Airlines Group has said, “Our plan in the short term sees us getting to about 15 aircraft but with the opportunity to build on that. The five aircraft [Airbus A330-200s] but we do have opportunities to switch to the [Dreamliner] 787. And we are in discussions with Boeing and Airbus about the future aircraft for LEVEL.” Additionally, LEVEL is looking at thinner planes like the A321, which offer a single-aisle design, 3×3 economy configuration and can land at other airports wide-body planes can’t. It is rumoured they could also have up to 30 aircraft by 2022.
The ground-breaking news is that they are not renting these new planes from Qatar Airways (Level currently rents nine Airbus A320s from Qatar Airways) or from another larger carrier and simply rebranding them. The new plans will be brand new from the manufacturer, modern and have all the quality of life experiences that come with new aircraft.
Alex Cruz, the chairman and CEO of British Airways has said: “There will be a limited amount of leasing this year. We are covering some of the lines with our own aircraft, and we will evolve from there. But no Qatar aircraft.”
All this expansion will mean that it is no longer feasible to run LEVEL as a line of an existing airline group, but they will have to have their own separate corporate structure and airline certificate.
Beyond 2018, there are rumours that LEVEL may look east and start routes to Tokyo and other locations in Asia, following the footsteps of parent companies Iberia Airways new routes to Japan from Madrid last year.