It's a beautiful August morning when I'm drinking my freshly squeezed orange juice at 10:30 a.m., at 34 degrees in the shade, in the "La Canasta" cafeteria, right next to the "Malagueta" beach section. At the next table are eight elderly Spanish gentlemen, all in their late 60s. Four of them play cards against each other, the other four stand behind them and loudly give their "mustard" with a coffee in their hands. On the one hand, it is this hearty, almost detached "childish laughter" of the older gentlemen, on the other hand, this completely relaxed, deeply relaxed manner and philosophy of life of many southern Europeans that impresses me time and time again.
When I ask for the bill and shortly afterwards put my ten euro note in the small bowl, I still have a good 3,5 hours to check out of my hotel nearby and take the city airport bus to the airport. When I reach Terminal 12 of the "Costa del Sol" - Airport - Malaga around 3 noon, there are long queues at the Vueling check-in counters. Checking in my luggage is supposed to take me a good hour this afternoon and I feel a little nervous, which the queue in front of the security check would probably say. Fortunately, this was completely crossed in less than 10 minutes and there was still time for a little shopping tour at the airport. From "Victoria Secret" to a "Jamie Oliver - Deli", Costa Coffee to Starbucks, the foreign, often British tourists should not want for anything here at the airport.
When I searched the departure board for my flight and gate, boarding was already underway for a Kuwait Airways flight to KWI and a Gulf-Air 787-9 Dreamliner flight to Bahrain. There is also no lack of direct flights in Malaga in summer for the often very affluent tourists from the Middle East. Just as I was about to take my first sip from my coffee mug, the announcement “the departure of the flight – Vueling 2-4-5-5 to Ibiza is now through exit D46” was heard in Spanish. So it’s about time the airline honored by SkyTrax as the best “Low-Cost Airline in Europe” in 2021 and as the best “Low-Cost Airline in Spain” in 2022 as well as the “Best Low-Cost Airline in Southern Europe” in XNUMX to feel tooth.
The tariff / price
Vueling offers three different tariffs on the homepage. Basic, the entry-level price only includes a small backpack measuring 40x20x30. If this is outside these dimensions on the day of travel, Vueling will charge €59 at the gate.
The middle fare "Optima" includes numerous "extras" such as a trolley case in the cabin and checked baggage weighing an impressive 25(!) kilos. Free seat selection from the standard seats is also included.
The "Time Flex" tariff is the premium tariff which includes Fast Track Security, extra baggage drop-off counters at selected airports and priority boarding (boarding group 1).
I opted for the medium Optima fare and reserved the first row in Space One for an additional €25 and thus paid almost €85 on the day of travel. (Time Flex should cost around €120).
This turned out to be extremely efficient and orderly, as the three boarding agents on that day in Málaga meticulously ensured that the boarding groups were observed.
The big exhibitors clearly indicate the boarding group including barrier tapes (groups 1-4), and the boarding really went like clockwork. Rarely have I experienced this in such a structured way with a low-fare airline as on this Vueling flight. It should be mentioned that hand luggage was also checked meticulously and some passengers expected a substantial additional payment at the boarding gate.
14:31 and almost on time we rolled onto runway 13 in Málaga for the almost 560 km long journey to the second largest Balearic island. To my delight, the 13-year-old Airbus A320 with the registration EC-MBL, which had once been delivered to Air Berlin as “D-ABDV”, was used.
Since, as mentioned above, I had reserved a seat in the first row (1F) on this flight – called Space One at Vueling – I immediately noticed the partition to the galley in the typical airberlin design. The machine itself made a good and clean impression on the cabin side, the dark leather seats including the USB port under the seat still looked as good as new.
Wifi / entertainment
Vueling offers two types of WiFi packages on board at reasonable prices. While the large "Browse&Stream" package is offered at a price of €5,99 and also includes streaming, the small, more cost-effective "Messaging" package is offered for only €2,49.
However, when booking, there is a note that only text content in social networks or mail can be read and written, opening or sending pictures is not possible.
However, the Vueling Wifi “Air” service is purely an internet service and does not include any in-flight entertainment. (Streaming etc.) An AirShow / Maps function is integrated for this, as well as weather and arrival information for the destination.
The service on board / the flight
Vueling offers an impressive selection of snacks and drinks. The menu was offered both in printed form (since the beginning of the pandemic, increasingly rare) and digitally via the Wifi hub. Hot sandwiches are offered from €6, salty snacks from €2,75. French fries are on sale for €4,75. Overall, many "crooked" prices have been observed. Beer, for example, costs €4,15, wine from €6,10 and small spirits from €6,75. All in all, there is actually something for everyone, regardless of whether you have a small or large purse or an appetite.
In the course of sustainability, Vueling completely dispenses with the issue of plastic cups. In addition, there is the possibility to purchase a reusable Vueling-designed coffee mug or a 550ML aluminum bottle in the on-board shop for €6 or €8. The first hot or cold soft drink was already included.
And finally ...
Chapeau Vueling! After only having noticed the Spanish low-cost carrier of the IAG Group from afar, my interest grew when it was named "Europe's Best Low-Cost Airline 2021". In fact, all I had in mind was some negative headlines resulting from the chaos in 2016 when Vueling wreaked havoc in the press with gigantic delays and flight cancellations.
But this flight has shown that the airline can be a very useful alternative. The airline offers some interesting aspects for an LCC that make it a very friendly alternative. Boarding according to groups (1-3) appears to be more sorted than the often unusable "priority boarding" of the competition, which is often not perceived as such.
The boarding group on the boarding pass was also strictly checked by the ground staff in Malaga. Despite the short turnaround time (at least in the front area), the plane looked very clean. With the USB ports on the seat and cheap Wifi, there are two other points that can be rated as positive.
I personally also like the sustainability aspect on board without plastic cups or cutlery as well as the sustainable options sold at a fair price. Thanks to the very friendly cabin crew on this flight and the numerous positive aspects, in my opinion Vueling clearly sets itself apart from many rivals in the "friendly low cost" area and thus moves into the category of a solid "value carrier".
My next Vueling flight, this time to the Canary Islands with a change at the hub in Barcelona, is already booked. After this first positive experience with "VLG", I am very excited to see how and whether the Spanish airline will also succeed in doing this.