LEVEL (LV, Barcelona El Prat) will operate as a virtual carrier while it pursues its own Air Operator's Certificate (AOC) the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of IAG International Airlines Group, Willie Walsh, has revealed.

Unveiled earlier this month, LEVEL will use a pair of A330-200s to offer low-cost, longhaul flights from its Barcelona El Prat hub to Los Angeles Int'l, Oakland, Punta Cana, and Buenos Aires Ezeiza from June onwards.

Speaking to the Cranky Flier blog about the project, Walsh said LEVEL would use Iberia (IB, Madrid Barajas) as an operational platform before transitioning to its own certificate in the short- to medium-term.

On the choice of the A330-200, Walsh said the -200's unit costs work out well when used in LEVEL's configuration (314 seats with twenty-one seats in Premium Economy and 293 in Economy class) and in the longhaul markets it plans to operate in. The A330-300 presented too much capacity while the B787 is more expensive in terms of ownership or leasing costs.

While LEVEL will focus on longhaul operations out of Barcelona El Prat initially, the longterm goal is to expand to other cities across Europe tapping into IAG's regional strengths. The Catalan capital was chosen primarily because it is the primary hub for IAG's short- and medium-haul LCC, Vueling Airlines (VY, Barcelona El Prat), which will provide LEVEL with the necessary feed to ensure sustainable operations from Barcelona.

On how LEVEL will expand in future, Walsh noted that aside from Vueling's strong Western European marketshare, the IAG's other carriers - Aer Lingus, British Airways, and Iberia - have a strong presence in other key European markets such as the United Kingdom, Ireland, and even Italy and Belgium. As each airline operates more or less independently within the confines of the IAG, passenger feed can be derived as and when needed.

"In terms of speed to market and speed to growth, we’re out there way ahead of anybody else," he said. "And we’ve got the flexibility to be able to do this and proven ability to have these airlines operate successfully quasi-independently within the group so they don’t interfere with one another; they don’t try to encroach on one another; they don’t try to suppress one another. That’s the sort of focus we have at the moment."

In terms of segment, LEVEL is primarily aimed at stimulating market demand among passengers, millenials in particular, who may not have thought of travelling to any of the destinations being sold before.

"This is a segment of the market that we believe is going to be significant going forward tapping into a whole new generation of fliers who are looking to experience something beyond what they had before and experience the world. This is the start of something that will be very significant for us," he added.