Flight VY 1540, Bilbao to Rome.
Airbus A320-200; Vueling has 87 of these in its 120-strong fleet.
THE LOYALTY SCHEME
Spain-based Vueling Airlines has the Vueling Club, which allows customers to collect Avios points, redeemable as flight discounts or hotel and car hire expenses.
1 hour, 45 minutes, covering 1254 kilometres.
Twice weekly, on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
My partner and I are travelling with a seven-month-old child, so we have a tonne of luggage; fortunately, the check-in queue at Bilbao airport has only a few people in it, and we're off for a bracing "cafe con leche" after 10 minutes or so.
Our seats have been automatically assigned by Vueling, given we decided not the pay for the privilege of selecting our own, so we're towards the back of the bus in 24B and 24C (it goes back to 31).
Vueling passengers are each allowed two items of hand luggage, totalling 10 kilograms. Given we're also carrying on 10 kilograms of screaming infant, we've booked two check-in bags of 20 kilograms each, and it's free for us to check in our stroller and car seat.
This is a budget airline, so you don't expect great things from Vueling, and on that count the airline delivers. There's nothing here that's great. It's just fine. The cabin is basic but functional, with seats that are suitable for a two-hour jaunt over the Med and little more. The 29-inch (74-centimetre) seat pitch feels comfortable enough, and at 17.7 inches (45cm), the seat width is generous enough to avoid too many elbow wrestles with my neighbour.
The "seatback entertainment" offered on board a budget Vueling flight is an actual seatback, and there's only so long you can stare at that before it gets boring. There's not even a map to follow the plane's progress. Instead, inflight entertainment is up to the individual passenger, and there's nothing quite so entertaining as keeping a seven-month-old from yelling too much, which is how my partner and I occupy ourselves for most of the flight. Other, wiser people are reading books or watching things on various devices.
On budget airlines you tend not to have too much contact with the staff; in fact the best they can do, really, is be unremarkable. They greet you when you board; they wave goodbye when you leave. And that's just fine. It's also pretty much the story of our Vueling experience. The staff are friendly and smiley, they bring down an infant seatbelt for our little bundle of joy, and given we're not ordering food we don't see them again until we're disembarking in Rome. Perfect, really.
Vueling does offer food on board but you have to pay for it. There menu includes a club sandwich, a vegetarian burrito, packets of chips, nuts and assorted drinks both hot and cold, which are pricey, but not outrageous (the club sandwich, for example, is €6.50, or about $10). My partner and I have had a better idea, however, than taking a punt on plane food: we've grabbed a couple of "flautas" – long, flute-shaped bread rolls filled with jamon iberico –from the cafe at Bilbao Airport. Our lunch earns plenty of envious looks from fellow ham-obsessed Spanish commuters.
ONE MORE THING
Some airlines like to name their individual planes. Qantas, for example, has jets called "Longreach", "Boomerang", and even "Skippy". Vueling does it too, awarding its planes pun-laden monikers, my favourites of which are "Air Force Juan" and "Ich bin ein Vuelinger". As we taxi out to the runway in Bilbao, however, I spot another Vueling jet on the apron, with its name proudly displayed near the cockpit: "Vueling me softly." That seems an odd choice given the word Vueling is meant to rhyme with.
The entire Vueling travel experience is much like the Vueling plane itself: adequate. Functional. This is an airline that can get you from the north of Spain to the centre of Italy for a bit over €100. There's no entertainment and no food included, but the service is friendly and professional, check-in is well managed, and we depart and arrive on time. Sometimes, that's all you can ask for.
OUR RATING OUT OF FIVE
Ben Groundwater travelled at his own expense.