Flight Review: Flying OAK –> BCN on LEVEL

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Back in March, I was one of the lucky ones who snagged the mistake fare on Iberia to fly from Oakland to Barcelona for $250 round trip. A few months later, I started getting emails from “LEVEL” who would be operating the flight.  I’d heard Iberia was launching their own low cost carrier to compete with Norwegian Air, WOW and all the other ones so I was excited to test it out. Overall, the planes were nice, the service was good, the entertainment was on par with other standard carriers, but some things could be improved, including their sketchy practices that I’ll get into later.

Check In (5/5)

Many bloggers have noted that in the early days of LEVEL, it was quite confusing to actually find the check in desk. They were getting emails from Iberia and LEVEL so they didn’t even know who to check in with.  Thankfully, I flew just this past weekend so they had at least opened check in counters with the branding for LEVEL.  I chose not to purchase seats and when we arrived at the airport, I was extremely excited to end up next to Max in seats next to each other in the two-seat configuration.  We flew an Airbus with a 2-4-2 configuration so I whole-heartedly expected to end up in the middle and we didn’t! (Note: I have no status or history with LEVEL or Iberia, hence my surprise.)

Therefore, I’d rate it a 5 overall.

Checking in was quick. Unfortunately, we did not get our TSA pre-check (low cost carrier + international flight) and Oakland security isn’t exactly the fastest but at its maximum capacity, it took about 20 minutes. Oakland does have one lounge, the Escape Lounge, which despite people’s complaints, is actually very nice. Great food, nice seating, but yes…very crowded.  They did recently remove Priority Pass as an entrance option so note that you must have an Amex Platinum to get in, the Chase Sapphire Reserve no longer applies.

** Make sure you always check the updated priority pass app so you don’t show up and get turned away**.

At its busiest
Escape lounge oakland
In its ideal state

Airplane (5/5)

We flew an Airbus 330-200 that had five rows of what they called “business plus” (1-2-1 config) and about 35 rows of economy in the 2-4-2 configuration.

Overall, I was impressed with the quality of the plane. We had 31 inches seat pitch which is more than most of our lovely domestic carriers like United. There was a USB charger connected to the screen, which is just like the nice monitors on Delta. They had a selection of movies, tv shows and games for free.

That’s about where the free stuff ended.

Level airbus 330

Service and amenities (3/5)

The flight attendants were friendly and relayed all messages in Spanish and English.  Given that it’s a low cost carrier, everything included a charge.  They offer “comfort” kits for 15 dollars that include a blanket and pillow. I did not purchase one but they looked nice.  Wine and Beer were available (beer cost about $5). I had a wine and Max had a beer- both were good. Wine is served in a small glass bottle and beer in a standard sized can.

You could purchase water but what they don’t tell you is that if you go to the back of the aircraft, they do offer free water that you can refill your bottles with.  This is what we did as we found the $3 water to be a bit ridiculous.

You could also purchase a variety of meals for around 8-15 dollars, depending on your choices. If you did not pre-order, you had to purchase any food or drink items as well as the comfort kit on your screen directly. The system was a bit buggy and I found it difficult to order because I had to add the items to my cart on the screen and then switch to my phone, access the wifi, go to their website and register for an account on LEVEL (which didn’t work). Therefore, I ended up having to pay a flight attendant with my credit card directly, which is much easier to begin with.

I’d rate the service and amenities a 3 given that I fully expected to pay for everything, however, I did feel they could have come around with water and their system was a bit buggy for ordering items on the screen. Not to mention, it took about 35 minutes to even get the items.

Broken LEVEL system

Upgrade process

LEVEL does have an upgrade process, but it is definitely not figured out yet.  The airline sends you an email a few days in advance and asks if you want to upgrade.  You must then reply to the email with your name, confirmation number and date.  They don’t tell you what happens next.  The next day, I saw I had a missed called at 2am PST from an unknown number.  I assumed it was LEVEL but couldn’t call back.  I emailed again and I received a call when I was in Barcelona but she did not speak English and told me she’d call back in ten minutes. I waited…they didn’t. Needless to say, no upgrade for me.  I’m sure they’ll figure out the upgrade process eventually.

I can say though, that their upgrade price was cheap ($80) so if you can get one, it’s worth it.

Level upgrade process

So what went wrong?

The flight there was great. It was easy, the service was good, the plane was nice…but there’s always a but.  When I was leaving Barcelona to return to Oakland, things were not as smooth as they were in Oakland.

If you fly Level, you NEED to bring the same credit card with the same account number on it when you check in.

Why? When I checked in in Barcelona, the agent told me they had to “verify” the credit card that I purchased the ticket with. I had since had fraud on the card and did not have it which caused a huge issue and they ended up charging me the cost of the ticket again so you need to make sure that you bring that same exact card with you when you do your return flight. No idea why, they never provided an explanation despite my protest. Thankfully, I pay for everything on the Chase Sapphire Reserve and they took care of it for me when the charge posted.

 

Overall, would I fly with LEVEL again? Sure- especially for $250. I will, however, remember to bring the same credit card from now on and I will continue to always use my reserve card when booking travel for their travel and fraud protection.

How have your experiences been with LEVEL?

 

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