British Airways has a new baby sister.
Introducing Level, a low-cost, long-haul airline welcomed into the world last week by BA’s parent group IAG, which promises flights across the Pond from just £99.
What is Level?
“Stylish and modern,” according to IAG’s chief executive Willie Walsh. The carrier is IAG’s fifth, joining Aer Lingus, Vueling, British Airways and Iberia, whose crew will be in charge of running Level while it finds its feet.
The airline is no doubt an effort by the aviation group to forge further paths into the budget market, with headline prices of £99 to destinations across the Atlantic announced at the launch.
Where does it fly?
First, it needs pointing out that Level only flies out of one airport - and it’s not in the UK. It is, in fact, in Barcelona, Spain’s second city.
So, to take advantage of its cheap fares, you have to find your way to the Catalonian capital, first.
From there, Level will fly to Los Angeles, San Francisco - in the form of Oakland - Buenos Aires in Argentina, and Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic.
Fares start from £99 one-way and are already on sale, but all routes launch in June.
Its two new Airbus A330 aircraft will be configured to carry 293 economy seats and 21 premium economy.
What’s included in the price?
Not much. Following the established budget model, Level’s base fare covers your seat and that’s about it. Passengers receive a free cabin bag but must pay extra for checked luggage, food and drink and seat selection, while in-flight Wi-Fi starts from €8.99 (£7.81). An entertainment console is available to all customers.
Customers choose extra services according to the category of ticket purchased - from Level (hand luggage only, with a €150 fee for changes and no refunds) and Basic+ (free meal and one piece of hold luggage; changes permitted for free) to Flexible (hold luggage, meal and extra leg-room seat; changes free of charge) and Premium Economy (meal, two checked bags, but no extra leg room; seat selection; free changes).
When Telegraph Travel attempted to book the cheapest possible return flights to Los Angeles (LAX) for September 17 (back 21), it came to $469.25 (£378.88), but that comes with no hold luggage or food. A Premium Economy fare would come to $1,285.25 (£1.037.12). For comparison, a BA flight for similar dates costs from £1,041, with one connection, while Iberia is from £1,032 with one connection.
It is worth noting that when you select your destinations and dates via the Level website, it redirects you to the Iberia website, where you can also see fares for Iberia and British Airways as well as American Airlines.
How much does it cost to get to Barcelona?
According to Skyscanner, flying out and back on the same dates (September 17 & 21), it might cost you as little as £49, flying with Vueling, in and out of London Gatwick, bringing the cost of the flights to £429. The flights take just over two hours.
Level has said it plans to fly from other European cities soon.
How does it compare to Norwegian and WOW?
Norwegian is currently Europe's biggest player when it comes to low-cost, long-haul, ahead of WOWair, which flies to the US via Reykjavik.
The former allows you to fly direct to and from London Gatwick to LA, with the cheapest fares (no hold luggage or food and drink) coming to £483.70.
London Gatwick to LA with WOW, via Reykjavik, costs as little as $360.63, though this fare only comes with a “personal item” as opposed to a “carry-on bag”, which costs an additional £37.99 each way, bringing the true comparative price to £438.51.
In short, Level was marginally cheaper for our spot check, but Norwegian is the only one to boast a direct flight from the UK.
Norwegian currently flies to a raft of US destinations, including Las Vegas, New York and Boston, as well as Oakland, while WOW counts Washington, New York and Miami among its destinations.
What about Avios?
One of the benefits of Level being part of the IAG family is that it is also part of the Avios scheme, so passengers with points earned by flying with BA, Vueling or Iberia, can use them for discounts with Level.
The return flights to LA as detailed above would garner 1,206 Avios points, or could be knocked down in price by, for example, $116.94 (£94.41) with 20,370 points or $212.62 (£171.63) with 37,040 points.
What does Willie Walsh think of Level?
“Level is an exciting new IAG airline brand which will bring a stylish and modern approach to flying at prices that are even more affordable,” the IAG chief executive said.
“It will benefit from having the strength of one of the world’s largest airline groups behind it and will complement our existing airline portfolio and further diversify our current customer base.
“Barcelona is Vueling’s home base and this will allow customers to connect from Vueling’s extensive European network onto Level’s long-haul flights.
“This is just the start. We’re really excited about the opportunities for expansion and we plan to bring Level to other European destinations.”