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​ROUTES: IAG's Level eyeing 30-aircraft fleet by 2022

Level, IAG’s new long-haul low-cost airline, will expand its fleet to up to 30 aircraft within five years as it plots long-haul expansion beyond its initial Barcelona-based operation.

The low-cost long-haul airline’s expansion plans were outlined at World Routes today by IAG chief executive Willie Walsh, who also confirmed Level is to be spun off into a standalone business with its own air operator’s certificate.

The airline launched operations in June from Barcelona using two Airbus A330-200s provided by IAG sister company Iberia along with its AOC and crew. Initial destinations are Oakland, Punta Cana and Buenos Aires.

Level has already announced that it is to add three more A330s next year and Walsh says that for 2019, Level is “looking at having maybe 13 aircraft in total”. He adds that IAG “could stretch it pretty quickly, and by 2022 have up to 30 aircraft”.

Walsh says that the airline’s growth plans mean that the current structure is not sustainable, so it will transition to its own management and AOC.

Walsh tells FlightGlobal that by the time Level’s fleet reaches 30 aircraft, it will likely be a mix of A330s, a single-aisle type like the Airbus A321LR and “possibly something else”, all operating long-haul routes. “I’d be amazed if Level isn’t using the A321 [LR]. It’s an aircraft that opens up new opportunities in what traditionally has been a low-demand long-haul segment that you can’t really serve efficiently with existing widebody aircraft,” he says.

As the fleet expands to five aircraft next year, Walsh says that IAG may establish a second European base. “The two principal cities we’ve looked at are Paris and Rome,” he says. “We’ll make a decision in the next couple of months – I think we’re pretty clear in terms of our preference. It will be at least two aircraft in the new base – potentially three.”

While the existing Level network is across the Atlantic, Walsh confirms that it is eyeing expansion to the East, with Tokyo already identified as a potential service. Sister carrier Iberia last year launched flights to the Japanese city from Madrid.

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