Goodbye OpenSkies

OpenSkies 767 by Tomás Del Coro via Flickr/CC-SA

The era of niche, premium transatlantic airlines is finally coming to an end. OpenSkies, the IAG-owned operation based at Paris-Orly airport is set to be replaced in 2018 by Level. The move will add new destinations to the long-haul route map and provide better connecting opportunities throughout Europe while also removing the premium option OpenSkes offered. The final OpenSkies flights will operate in September 2018 from Newark to Paris.

LEVEL’s Barcelona operation has been an incredible success. Customers love it and LEVEL will be profitable this year. Barcelona was always a first step and today we’re delighted to launch flights from our second European city with four exciting new routes from Paris. – IAG CEO Willie Walsh

The four routes include the existing OpenSkies service to Newark (4 September 2018, 4x weekly) as well as Montreal (2 July 2018, 3x weekly), Guadeloupe (3 July 2018, 4x weekly) and Martinique (3 September, 3x weekly). Those three face significant competition in the LCC market as well. None of the services will operate daily. The two LEVEL A330 aircraft based at Orly will alternate destinations throughout the week.

The new LEVEL route plan from Orly launching in Summer 2018
Map generated by the Great Circle Mapper - copyright © Karl L. Swartz.

The Orly log-haul operation will benefit from the significant operations of IAG’s European LCC Vueling to help feed traffic to Level. A similar approach in Barcelona, also a Vueling hub, is proving successful according to Walsh.

Like Barcelona, Orly is a Vueling hub which means that customers will be able to fly there from other parts of Europe to connect onto LEVEL. We will also benefit from the local experience and knowledge of the OpenSkies team.

Existing OpenSkies employees will be moved over to the LEVEL operation while the current 757 and 767 aircraft appear set for retirement from the IAG fleet.

In addition to getting new aircraft into the operation the shift removes any questions about post-Brexit operations for the routes. OpenSkies currently operates with a UK CAA license. (The cert is, in fact, French issued, not the CAA cert.) LEVEL uses the Iberia operating certificate currently, with plans to eventually transition to a dedicated license based in the EU.

Read More: Bringing more of France to NYC: XL Airways aims for TATL Growth

OpenSkies was born nearly a decade ago out of the eponymous trade treaty between the US and European Union allowing any flagged airline to operate in the markets. British Airways established OpenSkies as its European brand then purchased upstart all-business class airline L’Avion to grow the company. Thanks to the Open Skies treaty the carrier expected to grow into additional point-to-point markets with premium demand. That never came to pass.

Through the past decade the business model adjusted. In 2012 the OpenSkies dropped the all-premium approach, settling on a 3-class service with business, premium economy and economy cabins on board. The transition to Level branding kills off the old fleet and also kills the business class cabin in the operation. Level’s A330-300 fleet offers a small premium economy cabin and nearly 300 economy class seats.

Read More: OpenSkies introduces economy cabin

Ultimately the long-haul LCC market appears more resilient than the niche, premium play. La Compagnie remains the sole exception to that trend, still operating its twice daily Paris-Newark service. That operation is poised to upgrade its fleet and expand in the coming years as well.

Read More: La Compagnie poised for A321 order

Header image: OpenSkies 767 by Tomás Del Coro via Flickr/CC-SA

Never miss another post: Sign up for email alerts and get only the content you want direct to your inbox.

Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.