Level - Yet Another Low-Cost Carrier?

Level (LEVEL) airlines, the International Airlines Group (IAG) owned low-cost carrier, has expanded rapidly since it was founded back in 2017. As of today, Level operates both long and short-haul flights with a fleet of twelve aircraft flying from the carrier's four operating bases spread across Europe. But how did the airline realize such rapid growth in an overly saturated market?

A Level Airbus A330. Photo by AeroNewsX/Paul Schmid.

In 2017 LEVEL was introduced by the IAG, an Anglo-Spanish airline holding company, consisting of British Airways, Iberia, Air Lingus and Vueling among others. The carrier's first base was Barcelona.

However, during the first year it was Iberia who provided the necessary personnel and operated Level flights from Barcelona El-Prat Airport to various destinations in the Americas under its IB flight codes. This gave Level the opportunity to increase brand awareness, while enjoying the benefits of the Iberia fleet and personnel. Later that same year, Level announced that it would expand its network by connecting Paris with Canada and Guadeloupe and Barcelona with Boston.

In the following year, IAG announced the launch of a new low-cost Austrian subsidiary: Anisec Luftfahrt. This airline would operate from Vienna International Airport, flying under the Level brand to various European destinations. This was where the short-haul network of Level fully began.

Competing with airlines like Eurowings and EasyJet, who operated the same routes, proved to be a difficult task and after several months, many European routes were cut due to under-performance.

On 14 March 2019, Level revealed its plans to open a new base at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. Seven routes already operated by Vueling would be transferred to the new LCC.

Under the wing of IAG

One of the success factors of Level lies with its position in the IAG, which is able to offer support in many different ways. Not only does it have access to funds, knowledge, experience and codeshare agreements, but also personnel and infrastructure which can be used at any time.

From the beginning, passengers could make use of the frequent flyer schemes of IAG. Moreover, IAG is able to provide or exchange planes between airlines under its supervision such as Vueling, BA and Aer Lingus, seeing as they all operate aircraft from the Airbus A320 and A330 family. For example, three of the A330s currently operated by Level come from Iberia.

Fleet and Cabin

As of today, Level operates an all-Airbus fleet, consisting of the A320, A321 and A330 and has plans to expand the fleet with one A320 and one A330 aircraft. The average age is merely 5.2 years, putting it amongst its European rivals.

The A330s are divided into Premium Class which has a 2-3-2 seat configuration and Economy Class with an extra seat per row, which is typical for the type of aircraft. The layout is similar to that on some of the premium carriers such as Lufthansa, Air France and Delta. Similarly to other low-cost carriers, travellers in Economy class need to pay for extra bags as well as meals, headphones and extra baggage. For the ones travelling in Premium Class, these features are included in the ticket fare. IFE is available in both classes.

The A320-family has an all-economy 3-3 seat configuration which makes it no different than its competitors. For example, Level has fitted 212 seats into their A321 and WizzAir, one of the major players in Europe, has 230 seats.

Overall, Level does not offer an entirely different product from to its competitors. One could wonder what their added value might be, especially when a quick search on in the internet reveals a lot of bad customer reviews, which is not a positive outlook for a relatively young airline. However, the support and protection offered by the IAG could help the airline sustain future growth and expand further. Only time can tell whether Level will be able to stand on its own feet, but surviving in a highly competitive market will certainly not be an easy task without the guardianship of the IAG.

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