LEVEL to replace OpenSkies out of Paris as IAG selects French capital for its low cost long haul evolution

29 November, 2017

International Airlines Group (IAG) has confirmed it has selected Paris Orly ahead of Rome Fiumicino as the second base for its low cost long haul brand LEVEL. The operation will position two new A330-200s in the French capital from Jul-2018 to introduce flights to Montreal, Canada; New York, USA and the overseas Caribbean territories of Guadeloupe and Martinique.


  • IAG's low cost long haul brand LEVEL to launch flights from Paris Orly in Jul-2018 using two Airbus A330-200s.
  • LEVEL to add flights from Paris to Montreal, Newark, Guadeloupe and Martinique and from Barcelona to Boston.
  • A third A330-200 due for delivery to LEVEL in 2018 will be stationed in Barcelona to expand network from existing base.

LEVEL's Paris flights will be operated by staff who currently work for IAG's French airline OpenSkies which is based at the airport and currently offers business oriented flights to both New York JFK and Newark airports using three Boeing 757s and a single 767. After ten years of operations, the OpenSkies brand will cease to operate at the end of next summer, IAG confirms, and all its staff will operate LEVEL flights.

A third new A330-200 due for delivery in 2018 will be positioned at LEVEL's existing Barcelona El Prat Airport base also from Jul-2018 for network growth. However, ahead of its arrival the airline will grow its activity there with the introduction of a three times weekly connection to Boston, USA from 28-Mar-2018, adding to its existing flights to Los Angeles (summer) and Oakland in the US, as well as Buenos Aires, Argentina and Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. LEVEL's A330-200s are configured in a two-class 314-seat arrangement with 21 Premium Economy and 293 Economy seats.

LEVEL has made a strong start in Barcelona and plans to expand the formula to other European markets has been under discussion since its launch. "LEVEL's Barcelona operation has been an incredible success. Customers love it and LEVEL will be profitable this year," confirms Willie Walsh, CEO of IAG.

Like Barcelona, Paris Orly is a hub for IAG LCC Vueling which will be able to deliver feed from other parts of Europe to LEVEL's long haul flights. The start-up brand will also benefit from local market experience and knowledge from OpenSkies. While OpenSkies will operate the flights for LEVEL, they will still be flown under the AOC of Iberia using 'IB' flight numbers until LEVEL is set up as its own entity. IAG is expected to announce LEVEL's management team in the next couple of weeks, as highlighted by The Blue Swan Daily last month.

CHART - IAG airline Vueling is the third largest operator at Paris Orly where Air France dominatesSource: CAPA - Centre for Aviation and OAG (data: w/c 27-Nov-2017)

The new Paris operation will commence with a single A330-200 from next summer with three times weekly flights to Montreal starting from 02-Jul-2018 and four times weekly services to Guadeloupe from 03-Jul-2018. The arrival of the second based aircraft will permit the addition of three times weekly flights to Martinique from 03-Sep-2018 and a four times weekly link to Newark from 04-Sep-2018. The latter will initially complement the OpenSkies flights into the New York market which will continue until the end of the summer 2018 schedules.

LEVEL will face both direct and indirect competition across all four of the markets it will serve from Paris Orly. Montreal is served by Corsair from Paris Orly by Corsair on a seasonal basis (Jun-Sep), while Air Canada, Air France and Air Transat offer flights to the Canadian city from Paris' main gateway at Charles De Gaulle Airport.

While there is no direct competition on Paris Orly - Newark (excluding the OpenSkies operation), Air France does offer flights to New York JFK, while Delta Air Lines, premium airline La Compagnie and United Airlines serve Newark from Paris CDG with Norwegian (from Feb-2018) and Primera Air (from May-2018) adding flights next year. Air France, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Norwegian and XL Airways France also serve the Paris CDG - New York JFK route.

The Caribbean routes are to key leisure markets out of France with Gaudeloupe and Martinique actually among the largest country markets for capacity out of France. Pointe-à-Pitre International Airport in Gaudeloupe and Martinique's Aimé Césaire International Airport in Fort-de-France are served directly from Paris Orly by Air Caraibes, Air France and Corsair and from Paris CDG by XL Airways France.

CHART - Gaudeloupe and Martinique are the eighth and ninth largest international markets from France by departure capacitySource: CAPA - Centre for Aviation and OAG (data: w/c 27-Nov-2017)

As The Blue Swan Daily reported earlier this year, LEVEL is planning to grow its fleet from just two aircraft to 30 over its first five years of operation. Alongside the three additional A330-200s it has already committed to for 2018, the operation will grow to 13 aircraft in 2019 and up to 30 aircraft by 2022.

The airline had been highlighted as a potential suitor for the London Gatwick slots of failed UK carrier Monarch Airlines when they were originally returned to slot coordinator ACL, but this is likely to have purely been to take advantage of 'new entrant' rights. Now the slots are being sold on a commercial basis by administrator KPMG it is likely that a deal with IAG for the majority of the slots will likely see most of them flown under the British Airways brand, albeit there remains an opportunity for the LEVEL brand to be used to counter competition from Norwegian at the airport.