Flight Review: LEVEL, London Gatwick – Vienna

This is the cheapest flight I’ve ever taken. In summer last year, Level celebrated the opening of their new base at Vienna with a crazy sale, offering fares for just one euro cent on routes from Vienna.

I flew London to Vienna primarily to get a look at Level, a curious airline owned by IAG, and to see whether they provided good value compared to easyJet, who also ply their trade on this route. I made a video of my flight with Level which I posted to my YouTube channel.

Level fly from Gatwick’s South Terminal, which I consider to be the slightly nicer of the two at Gatwick. They share check-in with Vueling (in fact, when I booked, the ticketing was done through Vueling’s site! It’s all on www.flylevel.com now though). I didn’t have a bag to check as I was only on a short weekend break, so I headed to departures.

One of the things Priority Pass have done to assuage concerns about lounge overcrowding is partner with restaurants in some airports. At Gatwick South, the only eligible lounge is Number One, which is frequently busy, often turning custom away.

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At the Grain Store, cardholders can get £15 off the bill, which is a reasonable offer. My breakfast was very good and came, with a drink, to £14.95, so I ate for free (don’t forget to tip though – if you’re a tipping person).

Then, it was off to the gate. Our aircraft arrived without incident from Vienna and, as it turned onto the parking stand, the livery was conspicuously bland – almost like one of the default AI aircraft from Flight Simulator. Level is a terrible name for an airline, with no brand visibility and the inherent problems with any generic word as a brand in managing SEO.

My own personal suspicion is the branding is deliberately forgettable, and that Level (already a holding brand for three smaller airlines – technically my flight was operated by “Anisec”) is an entity geared up to swallow or attach to a big low-cost acquisition by IAG. Norwegian have long been coveted by IAG and I’m interested in the future of Level to see if my suspicion is proved right.

Onboard, the aircraft, formerly of Air Berlin, sported a standard all-economy 3-3 layout. Strangely for a low cost airline, Level missed a trick with its seat pricing. Emergency exit row 11 is charged at £13.99 for seat selection, but the row behind – 12 – is far superior in terms of legroom, yet is charged at £5.99. These are great seats; go for them!

Legroom was reasonably good for a low cost carrier and even with my bag under the seat in front, I didn’t feel too cramped.

Takeoff was brisk and uneventful.

Onboard, there’s no IFE, but seats come with power sockets which is a bonus.

My experience with the catering, however, was diabolical. Level charged 10 EUR for a sandwich, drink and snack. Not only did it take four minutes to buy something thanks to a dodgy card machine, when my croque-monsieur arrived, it was horrendous. Most of it wasn’t toasted and it tasted awful. I’ve often found buy on board food to be quite good, even on cheap economy carriers, so this was disappointing. The comparison between the advertised sandwich and the reality was farcical:

Level don’t charge much for the experience. Now there are no one cent sales around, the lowest possible far I could see was 36 EUR one way, excluding bags and add ons. During my research, I found Level on average to be 10-20% cheaper than easyJet on the Gatwick to Vienna route.

Personally, I’d fly easyJet in future. I’ve found them reliable in the past and their value proposition is very straightforward. The food on board is generally better and their product is very familiar to me. I probably wouldn’t save five euros to travel with Level again, even though they are generally inoffensive (catering mishap aside).

We landed punctually and I was out of the airport within ten minutes. I’m interested in whether readers have flown Level and what they think. Did you enjoy it? Do you agree with my speculation about Level’s “real” purpose?

2 comments
  1. Hello Paul,

    Thanks for the detailed review. Nevertheless I don’t really share your opinion.
    I flew with Level a couple of weeks ago from Vienna VIE to Paris CDG and can only report positive things.
    Brand new planes (A321 with Winglets), all flights left on time and more important arrived on time.
    Crew was young, professional and they had this fresh attitude eg. very friendly and motivated. We all know airlines that are long and the business and were you can feel they saw their best times long time ago. Here it looked that the cabin crew enjoyed their work (still 😉
    I didn´t eat on board just only had a coffee which was reasonable.
    Anyway as a frequent European traveler I seldom eat on flights less then 2 hours as in general all airlines have kind of petrol station food on board (including Easyjet)
    Legroom was fantastic for a low cost and one of the best features was the USB outlet on every seat!
    There is actually no low-cost airline to my knowledge in Europe that provides that on every seat.
    Thats why I don’t share your opinion to rather fly Easyjet even if its more expensive.

    So for me:
    – clean and new planes with good legroom
    – on time
    – very nice crew
    – USB power on every seat

    makes it an easy decision: I fly again with them!

    Thanks,
    Peter S.

  2. Never heard of this low cost carrier so thanks for the article.
    London-Vienna is a 2 hours flight so doesn’t matter if they offer junk food or not.
    What Low cost passengers are looking for when picking a Low budget airlines is the cost of the ticket but also the schedule.
    If Easyjet departs are 7 am from Gatwick & Level departs at 10 am or at 2pm,i would pick up LEVEL but would choose Easyjet if it was the other way around.(or if Level departs at 9 pm and Easyjet at 5pm,i would pick up Easyjet)

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