How I (almost) recreated BA Club Europe on Vueling for £64 one-way!

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I was in Gatwick’s South Terminal last Thursday reviewing the new My Lounge lounge as you may have seen on Monday.  I was on my way to Barcelona to do a review for Marriott which will run in a day or so.

Flying early in the morning from Gatwick South meant flying Vueling, BA’s low-cost Spanish sister airline, as the BA flights departed too late for my schedule.

Last year we tried to review Vueling’s Excellence business class service.  I say ‘tried’ because Anika’s flight was moved to a charter aircraft and she was downgraded.  Since then, Vueling has dropped Excellence and I wanted to see what had replaced it.

Last Summer I did a popular piece on trying to recreate the British Airways Club Europe experience on easyJet.  This seemed a good opportunity to try the same thing with Vueling.

What does it cost to recreate British Airways Club Europe on Vueling?

In the end, it came out at £64 for the one way trip to Barcelona.  You really can’t complain about that.

The base fare was just €32 (£29).  This came with a 10kg hand baggage allowance which was all I needed.  Unlike, say, Ryanair, at no point was my hand baggage weighed and at no point was I expected to fit it inside a measuring gauge.  The whole experience was very grown up.

I’m getting ahead of myself.  This is how I planned my ‘Club Europe lite’ trip.

Vueling review

The £64 cost broke down as:

€32 (£29) base fare – I will earn some Avios back in my Vueling Club account based on 4 Avios per €1, although this will be after some taxes are deducted

€18 (£16) additional payment for a Row 1 seat, which included Group 1 boarding

£15 payment for access to My Lounge at Gatwick South, which comes with use of the Priority Security lane – and I got 400 Virgin Flying Club miles back via this promotion 

€4 (£4) for a coffee and piece of cake on board – to be fair, I would have needed to spend €10 to get nearer to a Club Europe meal experience

This replicates, almost perfectly, the British Airways Club Europe package with the following exceptions:

DOWNSIDE – Vueling sells the middle seat (and it was sold on my flight); no wardrobes; no checked baggage allowance

UPSIDE – far wider food selection on Vueling than BA; seat selection is included in the prices I quoted; Row 1 is not restricted to elites (as long as you pay up) as it is on BA; boarding is via air bridges at Gatwick and Barcelona (unlike some low cost carriers)

Let’s look at how each part of the package performed in practice:

Priority security

Here is a handy tip.  Premium Security – bookable here – costs £5 per person at Gatwick South.  However, for £15 I booked myself access to the new My Lounge (reviewed here) via this Virgin Atlantic deal and this comes with premium security for free.

If you have a Priority Pass or other lounge access card, you can use the No 1 Lounge at Gatwick South.  This lounge is usually full at peak times, so you should reserve your No 1 Lounge visit for £5.  This £5 reservation payment also gets you access to Premium Security.

At 7.30am on a Thursday, Premium Security was TOTALLY empty.

The lounge

I wrote about My Lounge Gatwick South in my review yesterday.

It clearly isn’t the same scale as the British Airways lounges in Gatwick South which we reviewed here, which are arguably better than those at Heathrow but it did the job.

Subject to capacity I could also have used my Priority Pass (free with my Amex Platinum charge card) at No 1 Lounge Gatwick South, reviewed here.

Speedy Boarding

On British Airways I would have boarded in Group 1 as a Club Europe passenger.

Vueling also let me board in Group 1 as I paid €17.99 for a Row 1 seat.  Only about 5-6 people had Group 1 boarding.  This was VERY well policed by the Vueling staff who were throwing out people trying to sneak through.

On landing I was first off the plane and, as Vueling used a jet bridge, I was the first person at passport control.

Seating

Take a look at my Vueling leg room which is totally on a par, if not better, that BA Club Europe in the bulkhead.  You should also remember that you generally need to be BA Gold to book Row 1 in Club Europe whilst Vueling offers it to anyone who is willing to pay.

Vueling review Gatwick to Barcelona

You can’t complain about that.  I was in 1C.  On British Airways I target 1C or 1D.

Unlike some easyJet and BA aircraft, there was a bulkhead in front of Row 1.  It had a window in it, which was a novelty:

Vueling review Gatwick to Barcelona

The difference between BA and Vueling is that 1B was filled.  There was no fighting over the armrest, however, as the petite woman in 1B was leaning on her partner in 1A.  Due to the curve in the fuselage, 1A looked a bit tight although you obviously got a window.  I was very happy in 1C.

Here’s my handy tip:

All six seats in Row 1 were sold.  However, only one of the six seats in Row 2 was sold.   This is also an ‘extra leg room’ row but I think you pay less than €17.99.

Take a look – it is a decent amount of space:

Vueling review Gatwick to Barcelona

Food and drink

The upside of Vueling is that you get a far wider variety of food and drink than you would get on British Airways Club Europe.  It is not as good, but there is more choice.

There were no easyJet-style bacon sandwiches for breakfast from the Spanish, not surprisingly.  Options included a €4.50 ‘mini sandwich’, €6.50 for a club sandwich (€9.50 as a meal deal), €4 for coffee and a snack (Kit-Kat, piece of cake, waffle etc) etc.  The most interesting options were a meat-based tapas box and a pulled pork sandwich, both at €7.50, but I’d already had two breakfasts by this point – one in the Hilton Gatwick’s lounge and one in My Lounge.

For comparison, pictured below is the Club Europe meal I got from British Airways on my return flight.  In typical BA fashion, I was offered a choice of a salad or a different salad – and both were served with a side salad.  I’m not joking:

British Airways Club Europe meal from Barcelona

It was tasty though, so you’d need to buy one of the more premium Vueling options to get close to this quality.

Drink-wise, I was looking at €2.60 for a Nescafe instant cappuccino, €2.60 for tea, €2.60 for soft drinks, €3.60 for a can of San Miguel Especial, €5.60 for a quarter bottle of wine, €6 for 20cl of cava, €6 for spirits or €10 for a gin and tonic.

Conclusion

For under £65, I got:

  • Premium Security at Gatwick South
  • airport lounge access
  • a flight ticket to Barcelona with 10kg hand baggage allowance
  • Group 1 boarding
  • a front row seat
  • ….. and a coffee and a piece of cake

Arguably you should add another £7-£8 for a bottle of prosecco and one of the posher food options if you want to recreate Club Europe catering.

I earned back 400 Virgin Flying Club from my lounge booking and probably 50 Avios from Vueling.  Spookily for Vueling, the flight was on time too.

The next day I flew back on British Airways Club Europe in the same seat, 1C.  It was an Avios redemption which cost 15,000 Avios plus £25.  I had an empty middle seat and my meal was decent as you can see above.  It was obviously better than my DIY Vueling ‘business class’ package, but I would happily do Vueling again if I could get the same seat.

As I wrote when I did my easyJet piece last year, the low cost carrier experience does not need to be low quality if you, erm, spend more money so that it isn’t so low cost any longer …. but £64 is not exactly expensive for everything I got.

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Comments

  1. O/T – lounges at Birmingham airport. We are flying in Feb to Singapore, and would like to go in a lounge beforehand. Economy flights unfortunately, no status, not plat card holders etc etc, so looking at paying. Best discount code I get mean it would be £37.78 for 2 of us to get into the Aspire lounge, or £45 for 2 to get into the No1 lounge. I do have Amex gold, so could pay on the door for access, but I believe it has gone up to £20 a time, plus if it’s full you can’t get in, so may as well pay for one of the above.

    So, do I go Aspire or No1? And does anyone know of any better discounts I might be able to use?

    • In my view both lounges are appalling. A bit of my soul always dies when I go to either of them.

      There is a brand new Clubrooms lounge that I haven’t been to (and possibly won’t since it isn’t available on Priority Pass) but might be worth a look if you can find a decent price.

      • TGLoyalty says:

        I dont think either of them are really that bad to spend an hour before a flight compared to he main terminal.

        No. 1 is better than Aspire ofcourse, clubrooms is probably a nicer experience

  2. >> “In typical BA fashion, I was offered a choice of a salad or a different salad – and both were served with a side salad. I’m not joking”

    haha, very true

    On a BA flight to Kiev a few years ago (when BA still served food on short haul) my colleagues and were offered a meal with three different kind of bread in it (a sandwich, a roll and a biscuit). I know that (the) Ukraine is still stereotypically viewed as a ‘bread basket’ in the UK but I didn’t know that it was so extreme!

  3. flyforfun says:

    “For comparison, pictured below is the Club Europe meal I got from British Airways on my return flight. In typical BA fashion, I was offered a choice of a salad or a different salad – and both were served with a side salad. I’m not joking”

    They obviously think too many CE pax are too busy to eat properly while traveling and need their veg and fibre content increased!

  4. OT: is QR January sale coming this year or not?

    • Could be tomorrow – all of the global offers currently running, including the Stockholm to Singapore deal we covered, expire tonight.

    • Sale or not the economy QR fares to Singapore have dropped a lot in last week. Best prices next to Etihad. I’ve been looking at July but chose Emirates for an entra £100 in the end for comfort.

  5. Two of my Iberia flights have been cancelled which were booked for the 90,000 point promotion.
    Has anyone else experienced it?

    I wonder if I take a refund will my avios balance go -18,000? Is it risky to call IB?

    • Lady London says:

      Please @Ben can you post and tell us how you finally resolve this?

      I have similar brewing with IB.

    • Roberto says:

      There is no return of additional avios because it has not been a voluntary cancellation. Iberia changed my departure time, I decided to cancel it, the money to me and I still had the avios.

  6. BA Club Europe meals are often worse than the BOB offering and have often had to purchase something after the meal

  7. Peter Taysum says:

    I prefer a salad with a salad than, would you like some bread with your panini and some more bread? How about some bread? I could make a sandwich of your panini with a bread stick on the side… I have a bread basket… Some toast?

    Bread, bread, bread…

    You’ll never get the same service as in 1A on BA. Apologising that I’d spilt my Champagne the Stewardess without missing a beat (and whilst getting me more, and pouring, and putting another bottle on my table) came back with “did you get down on the carpet and slurp it up? I would”. Totally dead pan. Her comedy timing was impeccable. I practically spat my Champagne out laughing. It was only as she walked off she looked back and dropped the dead pan.

    I occasionally find the product wanting, but mostly I find the BA staff to be absolutely excellent. A real asset that “yellow vest” doesn’t seem to get or appreciate…

    What’s with the coats back on Club World before you land? I refuse it, and they often find somewhere to hang it up by the seat. Don’t get that…

    Few weeks ago got to be upstairs on a 747 for the first time and a cockpit visit. Holding a PPL this is an utter dream. They gave me a whole run down (I asked steward before hand as so security aware). Previously when giving medical assistance and diverting back to London City the Captain invited me to the cockpit, but it seems quite rare these days due to security. Captain and First Officer were “we’re old school, we love flying and we love sharing our love of flying”. Told them about my PPL so they showed me all the controls. UTTER DREAM. 1st on 777 was lovely (like private jet) but whilst club world seat is t as good as the BA First, the upstairs on the 747 was fabulous.

    Thanks HfP (AGAIN) as I had the perfect seat upstairs on the 747 and wouldn’t have known about it, or have status, or had most of the trips I’ve had without you.

    Happy New Year!

  8. What about the checked baggage? How does this affect the price?

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