* OpenSkies bows out as IAG expands its low-cost airline, Level / Laurent Errera
* The 10-year-old subsidiary is to stop operating next year
British Airways has confirmed it is shutting down its boutique airline OpenSkies after 10 years, reports Travelmarket Report.
From September 2018 OpenSkies, which currently flies between New York and Paris, will cease operating, with all staff transferred to long-haul budget airline Level, also owned by BA’s parent company IAG.
IAG plans to also give the gates and other assets currently used by OpenSkies to Level, expanding the low-cost offshoot’s offering with Paris Orly airport as its second base. It already operates flights from Barcelona.
“We’re delighted to launch flights from our second European city with four exciting new routes,” IAG Chief Executive Willie Walsh said in a statement, adding that Level “will benefit from the local experience and knowledge of the OpenSkies team.”
Level will have two Airbus A330-200 aircraft based at Orly flying to New York, Montreal, Guadeloupe and Martinique from July 2018; fares will start at €99 (£88), one way.
OpenSkies launched in 2008 as a boutique concept, with aircraft featuring business class and premium economy, plus a small economy section, with reclining leather seats. It opened a dedicated lounge in Paris Orly and started expanding, adding Washington D.C. and Amsterdam routes and buying out a similar French boutique airline.
The idea was to give more of an upmarket, private jet experience, with only 100 passengers or so per flight and iPads available for all passengers’ use. Prices were designed to be competitive too, with economy fares from $455 (£339) return, including meals and full bar service; business class fares cost from $2,529 (£1,883) return.
However, being such a small operation – currently OpenSkies only has three Boeing 757s, plus one spare 767 – the financial crash took its toll. The struggling airline had soon pared back to only flying between JFK and Newark airports in New York to Paris Orly.
Its parent company has clearly decided that budget beats boutique, with Level’s expansion the next big priority. Walsh has said he expects the airline’s fleet to reach 30 by 2022, meaning that further bases are likely to follow.
IAG also owns Vueling, Iberia and Aer Lingus.