OpenSkies is a little known part of the British Airways empire. Operating from Paris Orly, it operates two flights per day to New York Newark and New York JFK. It was originally L’Avion, an ‘all business class’ start-up founded by the same team who went on to form La Compagnie.
OpenSkies services have always been bookable with Avios and, if you pay cash, you earn Avios and British Airways tier points.
It is a three-class service, albeit one which I always felt was badly described – the classes are Biz Bed, Prem Plus and Eco.
If you want to try it, you’ll need to get a move on. OpenSkies is being closed next Summer. The airline will legally continue to exist but will become a ‘front’ for the French base of LEVEL, IAG’s new low-cost transatlantic carrier.
LEVEL currently operates out of Barcelona with four routes to Buenos Aires, San Francisco (Oakland) and Punta Cana and a summer service to Los Angeles. A fifth route to Boston is being launched in March 2018.
It is designed to compete with Norwegian and offers low headline fares but a wide range of paid extras for everything from luggage to food. Operated by A330 aircraft, there is no business class cabin but there are 21 Premium Economy seats on top of 293 Economy ones.
The LEVEL business model means:
you will pay for all food and drink
you will pay for all checked luggage
you will pay for seat selection (€15 for a middle seat at the back up to €68 each way for a window or aisle exit row seat)
you will pay for a blanket, pillow and / or amenity kit
you will pay for internet
you will, after an introductory period, pay for IFE
Premium Economy passengers will not pay for food and drink, seat selection, IFE or checked baggage. You can buy more expensive economy tickets, sold as Basic+ or Optimal, which include some of the items above. The only thing that no-one can get for free is wi-fi.
There are no status benefits. If you have BA status, for example, you still cannot use fast track or a lounge.
LEVEL is performing very well and is already profitable despite currently operating with expensive Iberia crews and infrastructure. I am not hugely surprised by this, because Barcelona is a bit of a soft market with a large catchment area but no flag carrier operating out of it.
Paris Orly will be a bigger test of the LEVEL business model given the competition from Air France and the far wider range of other carriers operating from the city. The choice of routes is interesting:
- Montreal, from 2nd July (three times per week)
- Guadeloupe, from 3rd July (four times per week)
- Martinique, from 3rd September (three times per week)
- New York Newark, from 4th September (four times per week)
Using Avios with LEVEL
You can earn and redeem Avios on LEVEL flights. Your flights need to be credited to an Iberia Plus account, not a BA or avios.com account. You will also not earn miles in any other oneworld airline programme.
For redemptions, it will price off the standard Iberia Plus redemption chart.
You can only book LEVEL redemptions via Iberia Plus. This means you need to use ‘Combine My Avios’ to move your points from ba.com or avios.com over to Iberia Plus. Remember that you cannot transfer Avios into Iberia Plus until your Iberia account is both 90 days old and has earned 1 Avios.
The Iberia Plus website was misbehaving yesterday and refusing to price any Avios redemptions for me, on these or any routes, so I can’t give exact numbers.
Headline cash fares are very low at the moment. As an example, a return Economy flight to Martinique next September – hand baggage only, no meals – is €216 return. Do not dismiss an Avios redemption, however, as (assuming the Barcelona model carries over to Paris) these get free seat selection, a free hot meal and a free suitcase. Premium Economy may also prove to be a decent deal.
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