'LEVEL' Flies Into Transatlantic Aviation
After what seems like weeks of anticipation, I.A.G. (International Airlines Group) has finally announced its new Low-Cost Airline.
Given the name 'LEVEL,' the new player in the aviation market will join British Airways, Aer Lingus, Iberia and Vueling in the I.A.G. stable, headed by airline giant Willie Walsh.
Initially, LEVEL will operate just two fully liveried Airbus A330 and will be manned and serviced by Iberia crew.However, 250 new jobs will be created at Barcelona Airport which, by no coincidence whatsoever, is a hub for sister airline Vueling.
Flights from Barcelona will operate to San Francisco (Oakland), Los Angeles, Punta Cana (in the Dominican Republic), and Buenos Aires.
The Barcelona connection will give long haul passengers access to 380 destinations offered by I.A.G. The AVIOS loyalty card used by all I.A.G. airlines can be utilized on LEVEL.
SO WHAT WILL LEVEL CUSTOMERS ACTUALLY GET FOR THEIR MONEY?.
There will be 293 economy seats and 21 premium economy (Iberia has pioneered the 'premium economy' brand).Which demonstrates exactly where the airline is being pitched at regarding market type. (Indeed the key market are the so-called Millenials who have been deterred by the cost of Long-haul.To illustrate this point some of LEVELS branding seems to resemble text speak).
Premium economy passengers will be treated to checked luggage and a free cabin bag, the opportunity to select their seats and all the latest movie releases. There is more legroom, at 37 inches, plus a footrest, drinks, snacks and a three-course meal.
Those in economy can choose a range of paid options (chargeable items include alcohol, amenity kits, pillows, and blankets).At a fixed price of €35, you can purchase two meals, (each with one hot option).All passengers will have access to high-speed Internet and the latest in in-flight entertainment technology (wi-fi starts at €8.99).
It is important to note that there is a very significant difference in price between premium and economy (though some economy tickets come with pre-paid options) I.A.G. is keen to emphasize that they are going to maintain high standards of customer service and other qualities associated with the group's image.
The latest launch fits into a pattern and follows Lufthansa's decision to offer low-cost flights to Asia and the Caribbean on the group's low-cost carrier Eurowings.
An even bigger challenge for the legacy carriers is that posed by Norwegian Airlines which has intervened aggressively in the transatlantic aviation market; using smaller planes and new airports (such as Edinburgh in Scotland and Belfast in Northern Ireland).Norwegian is also currently operating 787 services between London Gatwick and several U.S. destinations including New York, Orlando, and Las Vegas.
Industry insiders have remarked that the key to making LEVEL a success is to begin as efficiently as possible. Using existing flight crew and planes that could easily be incorporated back into Iberia's fleet seems a good choice.
IMPORTANT POINTS IN THE SMALL PRINT
- Unfortunately, possession of a one world card, while traveling with LEVEL, will not get you access to lounges or other of the usual benefits.
- Seat selection could cost you as much as €67. Cheapest is €15.
- No pets or unaccompanied minors will be allowed on board.
- You will be able to book connecting flights (with American, Air Nostrum, British Airways and Vueling) and have your luggage checked through, but only if the flight is an Iberia codeshare.
- A very positive note is that you can join a British Airways or Iberia flight if your flight is canceled or disrupted.This option provides welcome additional security, especially since LEVEL currently has only two airplanes allocated to it.
- Services will operate two or three times a week depending on the route.
- The first checked in baggage is $44, the second piece is $165 (both each way).
- Fresh announcements are eagerly awaited on other European destinations. Since Norwegian begins its Barcelona-San Francisco (Oakland) in direct competition with LEVEL in June, we may soon see who comes out on top.
These ventures can be risky, Low-cost airlines such as Buzz or Go !, have fallen by the wayside.On the upside, Vueling seems to be doing pretty well.Armed with this experience, it may be that I.A.G. has made the right choice, though some are pointedly asking why it all was not done under the Vueling brand.