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IAG to create Level-branded new carrier with ex-Air Berlin A321s

IAG is to establish a new Austrian-based low-cost carrier under its Level brand this summer, using four Airbus A321 narrowbodies sourced from now-defunct Air Berlin.

The European airline group says its new short-haul subsidiary will have Austrian air operator's certificate (AOC) and be based at Vienna airport. The four ex-Air Berlin A321s will be configured with 210 economy seats.

Operations are to begin on 17 July with flights from Vienna to Spanish island Majorca and London Gatwick. The list of destinations will subsequently be joined by six more in Spain – Alicante, Barcelona, Bilbao, Ibiza, Malaga and Valencia – plus three Italian airports: Milan Malpensa, Olbia and Venice. Paris Charles de Gaulle, Dubrovnik in Croatia and Cypriot resort Larnaca will also be served by the carrier.

Willie Walsh, IAG's chief executive, states: "We are launching this new short-haul subsidiary to provide Austrian consumers with more flight choices across Europe. These flights will be branded as Level to build upon the huge success of our new long haul low-cost operation."

Customers will be allowed to take one item of hand luggage on board for free, while checked-in luggage, food and beverages will be available for a fee, adds Walsh.

FlightGlobal schedules data shows that Lufthansa subsidiary Austrian Airlines will be a competitor on eight of the routes: Alicante, Dubrovnik, Ibiza, Larnaca, Milan Malpensa, Olbia, Paris CDG and Venice. Three of those destinations – Ibiza, Larnaca and Olbia – are also served from Vienna by another Lufthansa subsidiary, Eurowings; and there are additional competitors to Paris CDG (Air France and Vueling), Ibiza (Laudamotion) and Malpensa (EasyJet).

Level will meanwhile challenge both Eurowings and Laudamotion on the Majorca and Malaga routes, plus Vueling on the former one and Wizz Air on the latter. A sole rival will be faced on each of the Bilbao, Gatwick and Valencia routes: Volotea, EasyJet and Wizz, respectively.

To date, Level has operated as a low-cost long-haul carrier serving destinations in the USA and Latin America from Barcelona. The unit is preparing to begin operations from Paris Orly and will also establish a presence in Rome, Walsh has indicated.

Earlier this year, he disclosed that IAG was planning to pursue the Austrian market through organic growth following its failure to acquire Vienna-based Niki.

That carrier had been offered for sale as part of the dismantling of Air Berlin. IAG initially agreed to take over Niki for €20 million ($23 million), but subsequently lost out to a rival bid from the Austrian airline's founder Niki Lauda after a late change to the insolvency proceedings.

Ryanair subsequently acquired a 25% stake in the newly rebranded Laudamotion and intends to take its shareholding up to 75% pending European regulatory clearance.

This article has been to include the FlightGlobal schedules data quoted in the sixth and seventh paragraphs

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