UPDATE: Excellent launch fares appear to have now been loaded (this article was written late last week). If you are looking to travel to or from Vienna you may be in for a steal!
I’ve written before about how the ‘Big 3’ airlines are forming in Europe. Arguably the biggest airline group in Europe is the almighty IAG, home to British Airways, Iberia, Aer Lingus, my nemesis Vueling, and others.
In a bid to compete with Norwegian, IAG launched LEVEL, a long haul, low cost model from Barcelona, where the group already has a huge presence with Vueling and Iberia. LEVEL is not well-known in the UK because they currently do not fly there, and from reading LEVEL trip reports, I don’t think Norwegian has much to worry about, as long as they can remain an independent airline.
I must admit I have absolutely no desire to fly LEVEL.
There are loads of low cost carriers in Europe already, in what is already a very crowded market, so I was somewhat surprised to hear the news that IAG is launching short haul operations from Vienna, using the LEVEL brand.
Launching in less than three weeks (!), LEVEL will commence flights to the following European destinations:
- London (LGW)
- Milan (MXP)
- Paris (CDG)
This is an impressive route map for what is essentially a start-up airline. It shows the size and power of IAG that they are able to organize slots at airports like Gatwick so quickly, and it is a good mix of both business and leisure destinations.
While the LEVEL brand is nothing to get excited about, if you live in Vienna this is a great time to be traveling cheaply, as Laudamotion has also recently launched from Vienna, picking up some of the ex-airberlin/NIKI planes.
As an aside, Laudamotion is possibly the silliest name for an airline I have ever heard, and as an Australian always makes me think of this:
Surely it can’t be a coincidence that the video opens with aircraft at an airport?!
The LEVEL experience
Anyway, back to LEVEL. I am a little confused as to why they didn’t use the Vueling brand and just open another base in Vienna, but perhaps IAG realises the Vueling brand is not well regarded, so a safer option is to use the lesser known LEVEL brand.
Like their long haul flights, LEVEL short haul will be a common European low cost model, where checked baggage, seat selection, and food and drinks will be available for purchase.
Fortunately unlike some ultra low cost carriers, LEVEL short haul will not charge for hand luggage.
Even though flights to Gatwick are supposed to be launching this month, a quick check of FlyLevel.com does advertise LEVEL launching from Vienna, but when booking redirects to the Vueling site, offering expensive Vueling fares via Barcelona.
This suggests the LEVEL and Vueling brands will be closely linked which makes the decision not to use the Vueling brand even stranger.
Having a look at a few dates from London over the next few months it appears LEVEL flights (to London at least) have not yet been loaded. FlyBe is offering direct flights from London Southend for as low as £60 return, which is ridiculously cheap for direct summer flights on a perfectly good airline (albeit from an inconvenient airport for most people).
It will be interesting to see how LEVEL prices on popular routes – Vienna is not traditionally a cheap destination to fly to and from (that FlyBe price is a steal!).
More competition is always a good thing.
I’m not in any hurry to try LEVEL but if their prices are good I won’t say no. Vienna is a wonderful city I visited recently — if you live in or are traveling from Vienna it’s a great time to do so, and if you have wanted to visit Vienna keep an eye out for what I expect will be some competitive launch fares.
Do we have any readers from Vienna here, and if so, what do you make of LEVEL launching flights from there?