3/17/2017: IAG Launches Long-Haul Airline, LEVEL

Today, in 2017, the International Airlines Group launched its newest airline, Madrid, Spain-based LEVEL.



March 17, 2024

DALLAS — Today, in 2017, the International Airlines Group (IAG) launched its newest airline, Madrid, Spain-based LEVEL (IB).

LEVEL was set up in response to the growing number of low-cost long-haul carriers emerging at the time.

IAG Chief Executive Willie Walsh said, "LEVEL will become IAG's fifth main airline brand alongside Aer Lingus, British Airways, Iberia, and Vueling. It will complement our existing airline portfolio and further diversify our current customer base."

Airbus A330-200 (EC-MOY). Photo: LEVEL

Barcelona Base

Barcelona (BCN) was chosen as the airline base. This allowed short-haul passengers from fellow IAG airline Vueling (VY) to connect to Level's long-haul flights.

Flights from BCN to Los Angeles, Oakland, Buenos Aires, and Punta Cana were put on sale and immediately exceeded expectations, selling 52,000 in two days.

The inaugural flight departed from BCN bound for LAX on June 1, 2017. It had 314 passengers on board. Level initially used a pair of Airbus A330-200s sourced from fellow IAG airline Iberia (IB). It has now grown to operate seven of the type. The jets are operated by Iberia (IB) cockpit and cabin crew.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Level stopped operating from BNC.

Level Airbus A321 (OE-LCR). Photo: Alberto Cucini/Airways

Expansion Opportunities

From the outset, the airline considered expanding to operate from various other European airports. Walsh said, "We're really excited about the opportunities for expansion."

Level studied Rome (FCO) and Paris (ORY) but eventually chose the latter. Flights from ORY to Montreal (YUL) and Pointe-à-Pitre (PTP) began in July 2018.

Sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic hit the airline hard. Operations from ORY (Level France) were terminated and have never resumed. As of June 2020, the airline's foray into short-haul European flights (Level Europe) from bases in Amsterdam (AMS) and Vienna (VIE) was also canceled.

In November 2023, IAG revealed that LEVEL, operated as a brand by Iberia (IB), would transition into an independent airline within the group. The stand-alone status would occur as the carrier obtains its own Air Operator's Certificate (AOC) and enhances its fleet by introducing four additional aircraft, expanding its total number of Airbus A330-200s to eight.

Featured image: LEVEL Airbus A330-202 (EC-MOU). Photo: Misael Ocasio Hernandez/Airways