IAG closes LEVEL France, retires brand

LEVEL France is to close, hot on the heels of the closure of Vienna based LEVEL Europe.

Level flew directly between Paris (Orly) and Newark, Montreal, Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe and Fort-de-France, Martinique.

The airline had only converted from what was British Airways Openskies brand last September. That used to fly business only 757-200’s and later mixed economy and business 763’s to JFK from Paris. That closed because of competition from La Compagnie.

The future of the whole LEVEL brand, nominally based in Barcelona, now seems in severe doubt. They haven’t yet formally declared the brand dead but I have been told privately that it is to be retired. IAG clearly don’t see themselves investing in it any time soon and the market isn’t big enough to hold up the airline financially.

Originally it had been designed to compete on a similar level to Norwegian, as an LCC operating budget fares to holiday destinations.

The total fleet is just 7 A332’s and all are shown as grounded at present.

There had been plans to raise the fleet to some 54 aircraft, and rumours that it would eventually begin operations at Gatwick persisted for a year, until Willy Walsh said that U.K. departure taxes were too high and made it unviable.

In many ways it was a misguided vanity project. The original location at Barcelona was all about leveraging Vueling (also based at Barcelona) management expertise, to keep costs down. IAG says Barcelona isn’t affected, but quite how LEVEL is to survive from there seems mildly bizarre.

The move to Vienna wasn’t even planned, it was totally a knee jerk reaction to the loss of LaudaMotion. IAG had thought they bought the airline, only to loose a court case in Germany that nullified the purchase, after it was challenged by Lufthansa. Both of them lost the airline to a super fast deal with RyanAir who bought 25%, quickly raised to 75%.

IAG’s response was to take the newly established LEVEL and run a base out of Vienna to compete against it. So determined were they to show RyanAir they meant business they even sponsored repairs to Szent Istvestan Cathedral in Vienna with massive advertising banners.

October 2018 Vienna – Photo Jon Champs

LEVEL was in many ways a half-hearted effort. IAG moved slowly to establish it, which is why it lacks any critical mass or brand awareness, and nobody will really even notice it vanished. I was always surprised Willy Walsh ever let it start up, but not surprised it will just as quietly slip away.