IAG has signalled that it is aiming to compete head-on with low-cost operator Norwegian with its newly-unveiled budget carrier Level.

Its planned services from Barcelona to San Francisco – operating to Oakland airport – as well as Los Angeles will bring the two airlines face-to-face in the transatlantic low-fare market.

Both carriers are set to commence their operations in June.

Level will operate 314-seat Airbus A330s on the routes. Norwegian’s long-haul operations are conducted with 787-9s, fitted with 344 seats, and 787-8s with 291 seats.

While Norwegian’s 787s have around 10% of their seats in a premium class cabin, Level’s A330s will have a smaller proportion, with around 6% in a premium-economy section.

Both airlines have disclosed plans to serve Los Angeles twice-weekly and Oakland thrice-weekly.

Norwegian is also opening Barcelona links to Newark and Fort Lauderdale, while Level will operate to Buenos Aires and Punta Cana.

Level’s thrice-weekly operation to Argentina – which begins on 17 June – might have pre-empted a Norwegian expansion into the Latin American state.

Norwegian has previously indicated that Buenos Aires is a favoured destination, and the company has embarked on establishing a corporate presence in the Argentinean capital.

Level’s service offering will include complimentary catering, in-flight entertainment and checked luggage. The new carrier will also participate in IAG’s Avios loyalty scheme.

IAG chief Willie Walsh says Level will “benefit” from the corporate strength of its parent company, and will offer a “stylish and modern approach” to budget travel.

He confirms that IAG will use Vueling as a feeder service for Level, adding that the new long-haul operator will “complement” the IAG portfolio and “further diversify” its customer base.

“This is just the start,” he says. “We’re really excited about the opportunities for expansion.”

Norwegian has established itself in the transatlantic budget market, having commenced services in the sector in 2013. It has transported some 4 million passengers since, on routes to eight US cities from several European locations.

While IAG has not specifically disclosed the thinking behind the new carrier’s branding, the name hints at an evening of the competitive base while the green-and-blue logo and livery are reminiscent of a ‘level playing field’ as well as the view of a cockpit attitude indicator during level flight.

Source: Cirium Dashboard