International Airlines Group who own British Airways, Aer Lingus, Iberia and Vueling decided at the end of 2016 the time had come to compete more directly in the burgeoning low-cost long haul market.
Norwegian had proved it could work, rapidly followed by WOW, and soon Lufthansa jumped on the band wagon with Eurowings. By 2017 even AirFrance was creating its own special brand, Joon, which was low-cost but not low cost, in a way only the French could think up.
In the meantime, the pressure from the other side of the Atlantic has also started to grow, with Air Canada using its 738Max to start up trans-Atlantic flights to Ireland, and Westjet already doing that and more with a mix of 737 and 767 flights to the UK and Ireland.
The departure of major airlines like United and American from years of New York services around the UK has opened up yet more low-cost travel options for airlines like Primera Air who commence New York operations in March 2018.
The market all over Europe is waking up to the benefits of low-cost long-haul and joins airline markets in SE Asia to embrace it fully.
The difference with LEVEL is they have wisely leap-frogged past the short and medium haul. True long haul, at least for now, means long haul, and their initial destinations from their first operating base at Barcelona El Prat reflect that. It’s also an ideal spot with so much feeder traffic coming in from Vueling, Iberia, and BA.
So with Oakland for San Francisco, LAX, Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, and Buenos Aries in Argentina, they’ve started off with instant-hit destinations.
LEVEL is destined to have 31 A332’s within 5 years. Rome, London Gatwick, and Paris are expected to be targets for its inevitable expansion. This aircraft, EC-MOU carried out the inaugural flight from Barcelona to LAX. Having said that Willy Walsh has said he’s not foxated on A332’s but they are far cheaper to buy/lease and run than Dreamliners.
I was in Sausalito a couple of weeks ago when I saw an A330 depart Oakland and circle round for the return to Europe, and for once was struck by the fact I didn’t recognise the livery, but on FR24 it showed up as Iberia. Binoculars revealed it to be one of the LEVEL A332’s. At present, while sprayed up in LEVEL colours, they’re operated by Iberia crews.
The two aircraft operate 3 Premium and 293 economy seats for a total of 314.
The aircraft model is the first one equipped specifically as LEVEL, and was brand new, delivered originally and briefly to Iberia in LEVEL colours and then re-registered 6 weeks later to LEVEL on May 14th. The aircraft was taken out of IAG’s allocation for new Iberia A332’s.
Having read a few reviews, most people like and appreciate the seating and aircraft, feeling what they get for their money is pretty good. However staff, attitude and customer service all seem to be on the poor side, and the check in, bag drop, and gate experience seem to leave a lot to be desired. It’ll be interesting to see if that’s changed a year in.
So, what have Aeroclassics done with it?
The mould is first-rate, still the best in my opinion. However its starting to lag behind without aerials and satellite domes – dangerously so when some liveries are so simple (or bland, depending on your inclination).
The livery is simple enough, Eurobland white with a LEVEL in black and the square with the blue and green. There is an old adage, one grandmothers were fond of reciting; ‘blue and green should never be seen’ – a reference to the fact that they really don’t compliment each other and clash horribly. They still do. Aesthetically, it’s not ideal, but it certainly stands out for not being aligned with conventional wisdom, and that of course from a brand perspective, is what it supposed to convey.
Technical print and detail is equal with most AC efforts in this regard, and as good as anyone else can manage. Where this falls down is that such a bland livery really misses the aerials, and the huge satellite dome on the rear of the roof, which seems to have been ignored completely, doesn’t even merit a printed-on line.
2.Wings and landing gear
The paint on the wings is excellent, a much more believable silk-matt finish rather than Phoenix’s hi-gloss. Detail appears to be very good and they are fitted with superb precision. The wing mould and the fuselage mould that meets the wings is by far the best of anyones. Quite seamless from above, less so underneath.
The nose gear is fine but yet again the poor quality of the wheels and axle assembly, not the units themselves, has resulted in the forward starboard pair falling out and having to be glued back on. Why is landing gear such a persistent issue with AC models? The A330 set is better in terms of part quality than anyone elses, yet it just doesn’t want to stay attached!
One good feature on the wings is that the sharklets are counter-painted blue inner right, green inner left, blue outer left and green outer right. Things like this AC can miss so it’s good it was spotted and done properly.
2 GE CF6-80E1A4’s power this aircraft, ideal for dealing with very hot climates, and Madrid and Barcelona easily fall into that category.
Good silver rims, but excessively bright silver fans. Nicely painted, but just lurid in their toy-like reflectivity. This really does need addressing, it cannot be that difficult to resolve.
The engine exhausts are a great mould and shape, just the bright mirror-like silver band that is on the exhaust cone is missing. Engine pylons and shape are outstanding.
Very little is there to be seen on the real thing and the model is no different. Great cockpit windows, excellent mould, but nothing else to mention except under the nose is well detailed technically.
Superbly assembled, excellent and neat paint is great, the white LEVEL in the tail spot on. No complaints at all.
I’ve said many times in the past that AC’s colour choices have been appalling. That problem they seem to have passed to Gemini/JCW and whoever is doing the job now for them, is doing a good one. Colours are spot on, really issue free. Excellent job.
7.Score and conclusions
- -4 for the landing gear falling apart
- -3 for the completely missing dome – it wasn’t even printed on
- -2 for the engine exhaust detail paint, not for quality but for missing the mirror like silver. If you can get lurid silver on the fans when you don’t need it, try getting on the exhaust when you do!
- 91% however is an excellent score. AC have continued to keep standards relatively high and long may it continue. However, I think it’s time that AC joined the rest of the manufacturers and started providing aerials. It’s long over due now, and times have moved on.
My recommendation: A buy, especially if you’re a modern/future aviation fan. Just take precautions with AC models as soon as they’re delivered and glue the wheels on. Sooner or later they will want to make a surprise exit, and they’re almost impossible to find outside of a tightly controlled environment!