Seat 16C on Vueling flight 6228

SJ recalls her ‘nightmare’ flight on the Spanish budget airline, Vuelling.

Seat 16C on Vueling flight 6228

SJ is a regular travel contributor to YourLifeChoices. If she had one superpower, it would be teleportation – the ultimate cure for her fear of flying.

It feels like we're circling. I look at the time. 19:48. My flight was due to have touched down by 19:55. I am booked on a 20:20 bus back to my house so I can get ready to front up at work with some sort of packed lunch and aura of refreshed motivation at nine am tomorrow. There is no way I am going to make that bus. Unless we nose dive straight into a bay next to an air bridge which I sincerely hope we don't.

OMG. I remember I haven't filled out a boarding card. Come to think of it, I don't recall any mention of a boarding card. Most airlines usually have the decency to remind you you that may like to be organised and ask for one...

19:53. We're definitely circling. I'm not made for plane laps. 19:55 was actually the revised time our flight was due to land. The flight I carefully booked was due to depart Rome at 17:30 and land at London Gatwick by 19:20, giving me a full hour to get to the bus, including collecting the bag I had checked in.

Sadly, as with all good things, my time in Italy with my mum came to an abrupt end on a Sunday in September. Having left in a taxi after breakfast to catch the train to her Cathay Pacific plane back to Melbourne, I was left to run around Rome for a further five hours before completing the same process to catch my less glamorous Vueling flight back to London - certainly no champagne on arrival in my case!

In an attempt to be a mature and responsible adult traveller, and knowing what Italians and Rome airport are like, I left myself plenty of time, arriving at the airport a full two hours before my flight in order to check in. Talk about living in the past – Vueling is one of the only airlines I know that won't let you complete your pre-departure information if you have certain passports such as, say, an Australian one. Therefore you can't check in and have to go and line up like you did a decade ago. Seems like times haven't changed.

After making it through security, I was greeted with the delightful sign that my flight was estimated to depart at 17:55, not the best start given it was only 16:00. I headed to my gate to make the mature use of this extra time with free wifi and watch Made in Chelsea, I joke … and to do some work.

As it approaches 17:30 I note I am no longer sitting at the correct gate. No announcement has been made, I can just see that unless I would like to go to China at 20:30 my flight is not the next one from Gate Nine. After a lap of the airport including not one, but three, unhelpful conversations I establish from a TV screen I am now departing from Gate 10 and head back to stand where I was before as my seat has now been taken.

Having purchased Vueling's version of 'premium' I am interested (read: unimpressed) to see not only do you not get any priority boarding, but when I do finally board there is no room in the overhead lockers. While we're on the subject of things there are not, others include; seat pockets, and enough space to even put your bag under the seat in front, let alone your legs.

I will give them bonus points for the attractive male cabin crew member. Somehow this calms my fear of flying as I imagine he looks quite capable of saving lives and there would be worse people by whom to be saved. There is also a very attractive man in seat 3A but sadly I don't see him again once we are onboard for three main reasons:

  1. After we take off the seatbelt sign stays on for 45 minutes, no exaggeration. I am waiting to pull out my laptop and other people seem to notice too, becoming fidgety and probably wanting to go to the toilet or get their belongings down or something outrageous like that. There are no sign of the crew either, they are busy hiding behind their curtain - not in their seat belts I might add.
  2. Once the seatbelt sign is finally turned off, the front toilets remain closed for who knows what reason, causing a traffic jam in the aisle for most of the flight.
  3. When we finally do land Mr 3A is long gone by the time the 16 rows in front of me gather their belongings and disembark.

Other noteworthy moments on the flight included when I was stuck in between the two service trolleys and almost wished I was back in nappies given how badly I needed to go to the bathroom. And the bizarre music Vueling chose to play throughout the flight which sounds not dissimilar to emergency alarms. This may be to make up for the lack of actual communication. Although, to be fair, we were told we were travelling 11km off the ground at a speed of 842kms and the outside temperature was minus 53°C – always good stats for those with a fear of flying. Add in the final touch of turning the lights on and off without warning and you've got yourself a great recipe for thinking the worst.

20:39. As I stand at Gatwick in the queue for all other passports with 1,000 of my best friends, my Easy Bus long gone and halfway to London by now, I repeat two words over and over to myself; never again. Never again will I fly into a London airport at peak hour thus wasting an afternoon in Rome. And never again will I fly Vueling. Back to Easy Jet I crawl...



    To make a comment, please register or login
    21st Oct 2016
    Beware of Virgin Airlines!

    After a gruelling 10 hour flight from China to Sydney on August 4th this year, my wife and I went to catch our VA flight to Melbourne only to be told that there was only one seat available despite the fact that we had booked our flight on the 28th of February!

    I understand the practice is known as "bumping" and in the European Union,
    passengers who are "bumped" are entitled to a minimum of 250 Euros (AU$ 366)
    each in compensation. But this issue is not about money, it is about them
    breaking the contract we had and them thinking they can get away with this kind of
    disreputable practice and all in the name of profit.

    Virgin Airlines claim that "exceptional customer service" is at the heart of their
    company. In our experience it was anything but that. How can we trust Virgin Airlines after what has happened? What guarantees are there that it won't happen again?
    Something needs to be done to stop this disreputable practice and to suitably
    compensate those who are so greatly inconvenienced.

    It might you be you next!
    22nd Oct 2016
    Respectfully Sue but your account reads more like a prima donna complaining about things which do not suit than a real issue.
    We always accept that budget airlines are fraught with risk. A bit like buying speculative shares. And then there are the cultural understandings which foreigners are unaware of.
    You need to be happy that you got there rather than being unhappy because the airline did not cater to your needs. There is a difference.
    At least you did not have what happened to me earlier in the year: after a 14 hour flight to LA and 2 hours getting out and then back into the airport to catch a domestic flight I rolled up to the boarding gate to be greeted by a "flight cancelled" notification. AFter going to the ticket counter I then got a shrug of the shoulders and a "would you like to be booked on a flight tomorrow" question. Needless to say that was a kick in the pants. By comparison your account is more like a customer wanting an experience rather than a problem. Being a regular traveller you should be accustomed to this sort of thing. Happens all too often.
    Travelling Man
    22nd Oct 2016
    I flew with Vueling from Madrid to Lisbon and was very happy with them. 20 kg of luggage included in the fare plus a light meal. Sorry to hear that Sue's experience was not so pleasant.
    23rd Oct 2016
    A while ago I picked up a man from the airport who had just had a wonderful experience climbing to Everest base camp and site seeing around Nepal. He figured he didn't need a shower. He had travelled to Singapore and then back home to Aus. When he disembarked from the plane he was so smelly it took my breath away. I suggested he use the restrooms to wash himself down and change his clothes. He refused thinking I was the one being rude and he felt he was fine. In the car we drove home with all the windows down and even then it took quite sometime to remove the smell from the car after I had dropped him home. To this day I wonder how the poor person on the flight sitting next to him managed. I felt quite ill from the smell - but at least I could put the windows down!

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