Thursday 22 February 2018

Level set to swoop on battered Alitalia's backyard

IAG boss Willie Walsh with airline staff from the new transatlantic operator Level
IAG boss Willie Walsh with airline staff from the new transatlantic operator Level
John Mulligan

John Mulligan

Aer Lingus' new sister airline Level may start a transatlantic service from Rome in the latest bid by rivals to capitalise on Alitalia's insolvency.

IAG's Level, which will lift its fleet of two Airbus SE A330 jets to five in 2018, will initially focus its expansion on Italy and France, IAG CEO Willie Walsh told reporters ahead of Level's inaugural flight from Barcelona yesterday. Rival Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA this week said it's adding US routes from Rome as bankruptcy proceedings force Alitalia to scale back.

"It's clear that there is very strong demand in Rome, and even with the entry of Norwegian we believe there is a market there for Level," Mr Walsh said.

Sales at Level have been "well ahead of our expectations", he said.

IAG, which also owns British Airways and Iberia, has accelerated plans to grow Level which is offering transatlantic tickets priced as low as €99 from its Spanish hub.

In addition to Rome, Level is considering new bases in Milan and Paris.

Ryanair, meanwhile, has written to the Italian government offering to replace short-haul routes that are vacated by Alitalia during administration. The Irish airline is also seeking to establish a feeder arrangement with the carrier that would allow its passengers to connect with Alitalia's long-haul flights should it survive bankruptcy.

Last month Willie Walsh told the Irish Independent that Aer Lingus could eventually operate alongside Level in the Irish markets. He tipped IAG along with Ryanair to stand to gain from a potential collapse of Alitalia.

Last weeked a computer shutdown at IAGs BA led to the cancellation hundreds of flights over a busy UK holiday weekend.

Irish Independent

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