Saturday 21 September 2019

IAG's expanded low-cost Level could target Dublin routes

Expanding: IAG chief executive Willie Walsh.
Expanding: IAG chief executive Willie Walsh.
Donal O'Donovan

Donal O'Donovan

Aer Lingus sister airline Level may look to start a low-cost transatlantic service from Ireland, regardless of any tie-ups with Norwegian.

IAG's Level has just been given board sign off to lift its fleet of five Airbus SE A330 jets to seven, IAG CEO Willie Walsh told the Irish Independent.

Level is a lower cost sister airline of Aer Lingus, British Airways and Iberia, established by IAG as a standalone, low-cost transatlantic operator.

Level's low cost, transatlantic business is a similar model to Norwegian Air Service.

The two are rivals but IAG last month bought a stake and made a takeover approach for Norwegian.

Level is small but has been growing. The airline currently has three planes based in Barcelona and two based in Paris' Orly Airport.

Willie Walsh said bringing in two additional planes will also mean the airline looking to expand the network to "at least one other European city".

IAG is looking in particular at three alternatives, Mr Walsh said. Dublin is not one of them, but could be looked at, he added.

Norwegian is already flying from Ireland to the US.

Icelandic carrier Wow Air Ehf, which is also targeting the emerging low-cost transatlantic market, has also indicated that it could look to operate from either Dublin or London.

Transatlantic flights are a core part of Aer Lingus' business, and Ireland is an increasingly important hub for Norwegian. However, IAG launched Level in Spain, despite running the huge Iberia airline there.

Willie Walsh previously told this newspaper that Aer Lingus could eventually operate alongside Level in the Irish market.

He also insisted that even if his group sealed a deal for Norwegian, it would not mean mothballing Level, which has performed ahead of all commercial and financial plans to date, he said.

IAG's decision to boost Level's capacity came as the airline group's effort to buy Norwegian appear to have stalled.

On Friday, IAG indicated that it was under no pressure to make a formal bid for Norwegian, despite its earlier stake building.

Norwegian responded by releasing its own statement, which revealed for the first time that two "separate conditional proposals" to its board had been made by IAG.

Norwegian management also insisted earlier in the month that it was also the subject of rival interest.

Irish Independent

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