Airline review: Vueling economy class

THE PLANE

Airbus A320-200; the aircraft at the core of Vueling's operations. The budget Spanish carrier has a  fleet of 83 aircraft.

THE ROUTE

Madrid to Rome, via Barcelona  

THE LOYALTY SCHEME

Punto 

CLASS

No pointy end on this plane; Economy, seats 6A & 8D respectively.

DURATION

One hour 15 minutes (Madrid-Barcelona) and one hour 45 minutes (Barcelona-Rome).

FREQUENCY

Five flights daily from Barcelona (the Vueling hub) to Rome. 

BAGGAGE

One checked bag up to 23kg, plus one 10kg carry-on bag. As it's a short haul around Europe and many people are flying with hand luggage only it's a bit of a battle to find space in the overhead bins. The airline loses one of our bags, and is completely unhelpful in tracking it; it's found only after repeated calls to baggage handlers in Rome and it's three days before we are reunited with it.

THE SEAT

It's a 3-3 combination for 180 economy class seats with a 30-inch (76.2cm) pitch and 17-inch (43.18cm) width. This feels like the tightest seat pitch I've ever experienced in a lifetime of flying. 

COMFORT 

Nil. My knees are bashing into the seat in front – I'm 172cm tall and I have to splay my legs to fit comfortably. And working on the laptop? Forget it. There's barely enough space to put the tray table down. When the man in front puts his seat back, it actually hurts. 

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You can upgrade your seat online before you fly. For €30 more the XL seat at the overwing exits have extra leg room.  For €150 more you can have an Excellence seat in the first row of the cabin, with the middle seat of the three guaranteed to be empty.

ENTERTAINMENT

None. Not even radio. It's BYO or read a book, if you don't mind holding it close to your face.

SERVICE

There's not much of it other than herding us on to and off the aircraft. 

FOOD

Nothing provided gratis. There's a trolley that's pushed down the narrow aisle and you can buy hot and cold drinks, chips, chocolate and boccadillos (sandwiches). But why bother on such a short flight between two of the great food capitals of the world. Save the calories.

ONE MORE THING

The airline prides itself on its technology, and makes lengthy announcements about how passengers can connect via social media but, when something goes wrong, it makes dealing with the company directly very, very difficult.

THE VERDICT

Anything longer than an hour or two in one of these Vueling aircraft would do you in, especially if you have longish legs. We chose it for a couple of short European hops between Italy and Spain as it was a third of the price (or less if you book early) of regular full service carriers such as Iberia. But you get what you pay for. 

 Tested by Sally Webb and her family who flew at their own expense.

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