to travel / orly airport & level airlines, paris to new york

I haven’t read much about my specific Level airline experience (booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards, ticketed by Iberia, operated by Level). I hope someone else can benefit from it.

My Paris trip came about very casually when I was texting with a friend on how long we haven’t seen each other. I had plenty of vacation days and was forecasting some downtime. As a collector of points/miles, I had a lot of options to work with. I don’t travel as much as I used to so I have no status. The challenge was finding something that worked around the US Thanksgiving holiday when many others are also traveling, two months out. I used AA miles for the outbound flight. For the inbound flight, I wanted to return on the Saturday evening (not 6am!) or Sunday after Thanksgiving (peak travel time). While in the US, there is often not much of a difference if you book a roundtrip vs two one-ways, it’s not always the case when you’re crossing the Atlantic.

Level Airlines was the best option. They are a budget airline and owned by IAG (which owns British Airways, Iberia, etc.) The flight between Paris and New York was Saturday evening, and it operates out of Orly Airport and Newark Airport (technically not New York).

The plane only has two cabins. We paid for two premium economy seats for 74,000 Ultimate Rewards points in the Chase UR travel portal where points are worth 1.5 cents for Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders. You can transfer points within the same household which is useful for maximizing points earned from other Ultimate Rewards cards. The cost difference between booking premium economy vs economy was minimal (around $100) considering the almost 9 hour flight. If you want to book a seat or check a bag, it’s additional in economy. My coworker had booked a round-trip during their June 2019 sale, and I felt the price I paid was reasonable for a direct, one-way flight. As far as I know, you cannot earn any miles for Level flights, so it felt even better that we paid for the flights with points.

Where it got confusing – the flight was ticketed by Iberia and ‘operated by SUBSIDIARY/FRANCHISE’ and check-in with OpenSkies. I knew enough that the flight was operated by Level – which replaced OpenSkies as a brand in 2018.

Before the Flight

  • Seat assignments: I wasn’t sure if they were included in the price of the premium economy ticket. I don’t like getting seats at the airport and coincidentally this is the 2nd time a coworker happened to be on the same flight in the same small cabin, so I wanted to make sure we weren’t next to each other for the 9 hour flight.
    • Chase couldn’t figure out how to get seats.
    • Iberia refused to touch the reservation since it was booked by an OTA.
    • Level was so much more helpful over the phone. They gave me my Level record locator and reserved great seats for us for free. If they tell you that you can check-in 30 days out and pick seats or that you can reserve your seats online, make sure you can actually do it. Until they actually reserved the seats, they didn’t know that it was free. I also couldn’t access my itinerary on their website until they manually entered my contact information.
    • At some point I had tried pricing the flight out on Level’s site and the seat assignment option required a fee.

Orly Airport

  • Check-in: The online check-in process was seamless. Note that I was never able to view the seat map or change my seats online. I got my boarding passes for my iPhone wallet and got the paper version at the airport.
  • VAT Refund:
    • Orly airport has 4 terminals. Level is in Terminal 3. You can easily walk from Terminal 1 to Terminal 3.
    • Pictured above. The tax refund office is before security is in Terminal 2 and I walked right past it because the lights were so dim. The Pablo machine (for scanning tax refund forms for purchases made in France) did not work for me. Unsurprisingly, there is no queue since Orly doesn’t have many flights outside of the EU. The process was quick and one no longer has to mail in forms for the credit card refund!
  • Baggage:
    • Hand Baggage: On the website, economy is limited to 10kg, no weight stated for premium economy. They did not weigh or check the size of bags. (This has happened to me before with Air France until they heard I was ticketed by Delta.)
    • Checked Baggage: I couldn’t find anything online on whether my premium fare included checked baggage. Answer: Yes. The baggage allowance is 23kg per item and we were around 23.5kg. They didn’t charge us for the extra weight and my coworker had the same experience.
  • Shopping:
    • The biggest downside of Orly is that there is no luxury duty-free shopping, but the emptiness of the airport relative to CDG was so refreshing that I would definitely opt to fly out of here again!
    • Before security, there is Nespresso, Mariage Frères, Laduree, Maison Du Chocolat, and Paul, etc.
      • If you have a Nespresso machine, I highly recommend buying capsules in Europe as it is much cheaper and they are easy to carry. Many capsules are $0.70 in the US and 0.43 euros in France. On top of that, Nespresso France had 20% off capsules in celebration of Black Friday (a weeklong celebration in France).
    • After security, you have the standard cosmetics store, multi-brand store, Relay, and some food shops.

On the Plane

  • Priority Boarding: It was a mad house. I think premium economy boards the same time as those who purchased priority seats in economy. My flight was mostly Americans and they had no shame whatsoever cutting the queue with their entire family. The boarding process also started 15-20 minutes before the stated time.
  • Seat: We sat in the first row of premium economy. We had tons of legroom as seen above. I thought the seats were comfortable.
  • Food and Drinks: One hot meal and one hot snack. Alcohol is included. My expectations for airplane food are pretty low and I thought the food on the plane was not bad! Service was very friendly.
  • Priority Baggage: Does not exist.

Do I recommend Level for Orly to Paris? Yes

Do I recommend Level premium economy for Orly to Paris? Definitely if the price is good!

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