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Europe gets another short-haul LCC

IAG is making another move away from the traditional airline model of its British Airways and Iberia brands.

IAG says it is expanding its new budget long-haul carrier Level into short-haul routes, setting up a new Austrian unit that will fly between Vienna and destinations in Europe, Reuters reports.

International Airlines Group established Level last year to focus on providing low-cost long-haul leisure-heavy flights initially from Spain and France, challenging Norwegian on transatlantic routes.

But IAG, which owns British Airways, Iberia, Aer Lingus and another Spanish low-cost carrier, Vueling, now says that the Level brand will expand into the short-haul market where it will directly compete with Ryanair and easyJet.

“We are launching this new shorthaul subsidiary to provide Austrian consumers with more flight choices across Europe,” IAG CEO Willie Walsh said in a statement.

Level will start these short-haul routes on July 17 with flights between Vienna and Palma in Majorca and London Gatwick. Very soon it will have four Airbus A321 aircraft serving 14 destinations also including Barcelona, Malaga, Venice, Olbia, Ibiza, Paris-CDG, Milan-Malpensa, Dubrovnik, Larnaca, Alicante, Valencia and Bilbao.

Away from tradition
It is another sign of how IAG is moving further away from the traditional airline model of its BA and Iberia brands, and it also follows the failure of several attempts to buy Norwegian and also Vienna-based Niki, which has since been snapped up by Ryanair.

Vienna also has attracted bullish expansion recently from other LCCs including easyJet, Lufthansa Group’s Eurowings and Wizz Air, the latter planning 30 routes from Vienna.

The travel editor of the Independent newspaper, Simon Calder, calls IAG’s decision a bold move that would mean a “massive fares war”, the BBC reports.

“British Airways’ parent company has astonished the aviation market by launching a new Vienna-based subsidiary with less than three weeks’ notice,” he remarked.

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