British Airways owner shocks aviation industry with launch of new budget airline in challenge to Ryanair service

Massive fares war expected as European giants confront each other at Vienna

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Thursday 28 June 2018 15:03 BST
Budget airline Level launches. Simon Calder explains

British Airways’ parent company, IAG, has astonished the aviation market by launching a new Vienna-based subsidiary airline with less than three weeks’ notice before flights begin.

IAG’s new operation is called Anisec. It will be branded as Level – the same as the group’s existing long-haul budget operation.

The move is seen as a challenge to Laudamotion, an existing Austrian airline in which Ryanair has a 75 per cent stake, and could trigger a massive fares war.

Level’s short-haul flights begin on 17 July. On that day flights between Gatwick and Vienna are available at £23 each way. Services start on the same day between Vienna and Palma de Mallorca.

Over the subsequent four weeks, flights from Vienna will be launched to six Spanish destinations and three cities in Italy, as well as Paris, Dubrovnik and Larnaca in Cyprus. The latter two routes offer connection opportunities for British travellers from Gatwick via Vienna.

The new airline uses Airbus A321 jets – bigger planes than other low-cost carriers. They seat 210 passengers, compared with a maximum of 186 on easyJet and 189 on Ryanair.

Willie Walsh, IAG’s chief executive, said: “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.”

IAG already has a low-cost short-haul airline, Vueling, which is based in Barcelona. Initially, bookings for Level are being made through the Vueling website.

With so many holidaymakers already booked for the summer, to launch an airline with just 19 days’ notice is most unusual. But a spokesperson for IAG said: “We’re so confident that the new operation will be a success, that tickets will fly off the shelves like hot cakes.”

IAG also has a small shareholding in Norwegian, and has made an unsuccessful bid to take over the airline.

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