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Book with BA and end up flying with a no-frills airline – and you could face a lottery to get on board the plane at all

Robin Bowman

Robin Bowman
Mar 1, 2018


Businessman Bob Golden has described how he booked a BA flight to Italy only to discover it was actually with the Spanish no-frills carrier Vueling.

Not only that, but Bob and his partner also found they faced a lottery to get on board at all because of a clash between BA and Vueling’s rules meant they couldn’t check in online. 

They were told to get the airport early as remaining seats would be allocated on a ‘first-come, first-served’ basis and flights are routinely overbooked by 20%.

On the return leg things got even worse – Bob’s partner Rowena was allocated a seat on board, while he faced an agonizing wait on standby to see if he could fly as well.

“At least one other couple were in the same position,” Bob, from Weybridge told us.

“Rowena would willingly have stayed back with me and flown later, but we were told her bag was aboard and she had to take the seat.”

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The nightmare began after Bob booked the four-day, flights and hotel package to Florence, paying £200 each for the return flights.

“I booked everything through Amex because they have a travel booking service. I thought it was a BA flight as it had a BA flight number, but I was told later it was actually a Vueling flight.

“And Vueling makes Ryanair seem like a Rolls Royce service, believe me!”

The Spanish no-frills airline is owed by International Airlines Group, which also owns BA.

The real problem came when Bob and his partner tried to check in online. 

“Because it was a BA flight number I couldn’t check in until 24 hours before take off, that’s the BA rule,” he said. 

“When I tried to check us in on the BA site, I was given a different number and told to go to the Vueling site and check in. 

“But they don’t allow online check in that late before a departure.” 

Bob says he ‘smelled a rat’ at this point and called Vueling’s customer service number.

“The person I spoke to was very frank.

“I was told Vueling flights are all overbooked by 20% and after two thirds of passengers have booked in online, no one else is allowed to. You have to turn up at the airport and see if you get a seat.

“I was advised to get there early, and we did, three hours before departure, and luckily we were OK.” 

But coming back, the flight was disrupted because of bad weather and Bob and Rowena were put up in a hotel in Rome to pick up a flight from there the next day.

“The staff at the hotel told us they had a constant flow of Vueling passengers staying over because of overbooking, some of them being bused in and arriving at two in the morning.”

The next day Bob discovered he hadn’t been allocated a seat on the flight but Rowena had been! 

“Rowena was checked in, but I was placed on a standby list – and we know that at least one other couple were split up in the same way.

“On this occasion I was lucky, I was second on the standby list and 183 passengers checked in for the 185-seat plane, so I got on.

“But there was no doubt they would have insisted we fly separately if I hadn’t got a seat – they said Rowena had to fly as her bag was already loaded. 

 

 Second-take – The BA flight that’s operated by Vueling

This is not the first time passengers have been split up in this way when flying with Vueling. 

Last summer it was reported how a mum of two was bumped from a flight while her husband and children were forced to fly on holiday without her

Bob said, “The Vueling staff are just so demoralised, as they seem to have to deal with a constant flow of angry and worried passengers.”

He also says fed-up staff revealed another crazy anomaly.

“The airline not only codeshares with BA, but also with United Airlines.

“That means a lot of angry US passengers being forced to pay to take their cabin baggage aboard the Vueling flights.”

Why?

Because United has a 15kg limit on cabin baggage, while Vueling sets a limit at 10kg. You have to pay to take the extra weight aboard. 

“You can’t help wonder if that is all deliberate,” Bob said. 

We’ve asked BA if they are aware of the clashing online check-in policies between them and Vueling, and how this means BA passengers face a lottery to get seats. 

They are investigating and say they will respond.

Vueling have not responded to questions.

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