An airfare war is raging over the Atlantic, and the owner of British Airways has just fired a new weapon.
International Consolidated Airlines Group, BA’s parent company, said Friday (March 17) that it’s launching a low-cost carrier called Level that will offer no-frills service from Spain to two airports in California and two in Latin America, beginning in June. One-way fares start at €99 ($106) from Europe and $149 from the US, the company said.
Flights aboard the Airbus A330-200 planes will have 293 economy seats, as well as 21 premium economy seats available starting at €599.
Level, IAG’s fifth airline, will offer flights from Barcelona to Buenos Aires; Los Angeles; Oakland, California; and Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic.
It’s great news for unfussy flyers who will trade a pre-selected seat and a warm meal in exchange for a low fare. IAG’s competitor Lufthansa has added routes to the Caribbean and to Asia for its low-cost Eurowings airline. Norwegian Air last month announced fares as low as $65 for 10 routes between airports outside of New York City and European destinations. Icelandic budget carrier Wow Air offered $99 fares in 2014 to promote the start of its flights between Boston or Baltimore and Reykjavik.
Large US carriers American and United have recently launched basic economy fares that are lower than regular economy but force passengers to give up perks long taken for granted, like overhead bin space.
Passengers drooling over Level’s new sticker-price fares should take note: They go fast. A recent search for a late June departure from Oakland to Barcelona returning in early July was $569. Picking your own seat costs $22—and might be a worthwhile expense, given the planes’ 2-4-2 configuration for economy class. That means two aisles with two seats on either side, with four across in the middle. At least you get to bring a piece of luggage on board.