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.


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.


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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  1. This is precisely why RFS from the regions has become pointless – for minimum 18k + £70 with BA that buys you a lot with the low cost carriers. For example with Easyjet buying an up front or extra legroom seat gets you an extra bag on board as well as priority boarding. On my Norwegian flight yesterday I got 3 seats to myself in emergency exit as other folks weren’t wanting to pay the small amount extra. As you say you just need to consider the cost of the overall package rather than get too hung up on how costs go up from the base fare.

  2. Does the 400 Virgin miles for MyLounge apply per booking or per person? Travelling with the family, so wondering if I should book me+2kids on one booking and husband on the other, so we’d get 400 each (if it’s per booking) or all on one account (if per person).
    Nice to see that kids are even cheaper at £12.
    I guess a 14yr old is an adult despite not being able to drink though.

  3. LGW – BCN in real BA CE for £159 in March via IB & not via BA which is £40 more for the same flights.

  4. A very informative and useful article.
    Some nice tips to improve the low cost option
    I’m looking at a Lisbon / Madrid / Barcelona ‘outing’ in May June so now have a wider range of options to consider. Thanks

    • Barnaby100 says:

      Lisbon in CE you get to go in the Cathay lounge at Lhr as it is a t3 flight.

      • Genghis says:

        Barcelona too

      • BA or Veuling ?
        Would they recognise BAEC GGL if flying Econ ?
        (Trip would be UK to Lisbon then fly/train to Madrid then fly/train to Barcelona then return to UK – likely 6 days (3 concerts) with a small backpack …)

        • Only if booked as a BA codeshare operated by Vueling. Not as a stand alone Vueling flight.

        • Also only at Gatwick where there’s an actual.BA lounge. No lounge at LIS/BCN as these are operated by a third party.

        • There’s no lounge at all at Lisbon if flying one of the low cost airlines. Separate terminal for all the riff raff

          • Damn, including Easyjet? Flying back with them in a couple of months as direct to EDI.

        • Lady London says:

          Personally I’d fly all those and not take the train.

          I did all of those train rides many years ago and they were slow and late. Or, perhaps those who’ve done those trains more recently can advise?

    • Concerto says:

      I thought Vueling was the most hated airline among frequent flyers. What a mess back in 2016. Totally avoided them since.

      • They used to have terrible punctuality numbers which is one reason they were so hated. They’ve improved though, and the onboard service is as good as any similar airline.

  5. Richard says:

    Some commenters are being unfairly snooty at rob for claimed inconsistencies to CE,but the snootiness should be reserved for BA, all the article does is demonstrate that if you are not after the tier points nor need a very large luggage allowance, that BA have just made their business class product pointless.

    • But people keep paying for CE so from BA’s point of view they are doing something right. The CE section is always quite full on my flights even when the ET section is half empty, and I think I fly at a mixture of busy and quiet periods.

      • Although quite a few of those (like me today and judging my the American accents quite a few others in the cabin) will be in CE by dint of connecting onto longhaul premium cabins rather than buying outright.

        • Braburn says:

          Criticism of rob is a little unfair. This could be very useful for people unfamiliar with vueling.

    • So your argument is ‘BA business class is pointless if you don’t need the things BA provide as part of their business class experience’? I can’t really disagree with that

    • It’s not a case of being snooty. More about calling out inconsistencies in the article not matching up to the title. If I wanted a half baked comparison, I’d be reading the Daily Mail. I dont expect it on HfP and I think its important to call out the shortfalls. I find most articles here relatively balanced and unbiased which is why like to drop in and catch up most mornings. Articles are generally interesting and relevant to me. This piece of comparison journalism just isn’t unfortunately.

    • “Snooty”??? Explain please. No-one is being unfair to Rob here – rather pointing out that the comparison itself is not really valid. I’ve already agreed that generally the review is very useful and may make me think again about using Vueling.

  6. You were lucky nothing went wrong… and that is where the fun begins… :/

  7. Peter K says:

    One thing not mentioned, but that is because Rob didn’t have checked luggage, is that BA let you check in your luggage the night before for a morning flight. That is a whole lot of stress you can avoid and worth a lot compared to LCC’s.

  8. Give Rob a break – interesting article and breakdown comparison – just no need to be so pedantic from some of the commentators. If it is not a reflection of your own circumstances then just keep your thoughts to yourself as for some of us on here who don’t fly Vueling often it is a useful reference piece.

    • BSI1978 says:

      + 1

    • +1

    • +1

    • I’m sure Rob is able to respond in the various threads if he so wishes and that he understands as the editor and author that some feedback will be complimentary and some will be more constructive and offer an alternative viewpoint that may or may not have already been considered. That it not a personal attack towards him as an individual as some seem to think is the case.

    • I’m feeling guilty, just flew Club Europe OSL-LHR and didn’t have anything to eat or drink! :O. I did check a bag though 😉

      • So we’ll call that Club lite shall we and call it a draw against Norwegian? 😊

        • Haha Norwegian actually beat it for legroom! Boarding better with BA, arrival better with Norwegian. Common factor there is perhaps OSL! By comparison at LHR they had no one to operate the jetty for 10 min then fast track security shut!

  9. Prins Polo says:

    Ideas for other articles:

    – How to recreate Lufthansa shorthaul business class on Wizzair
    – How to recreate KLM shorthaul business class on Ryanair

    … and more 😉

    • Can you remember KLM Europe Select? It was their previous business class product where they used to sell the middle seats!

      So how to recreate that on Ryanair was easy:
      Book any economy seat
      Buy a bento box before boarding.

      I’m not sure if KLM Europe Select used to have a dedicated crew though, which may have made it worthwhile. Back in those days I’d have never considered flying shorthaul business class.

  10. 1C? I thought everyone, including golds, avoided that seat, known as the “get hit in the head by everyone’s backpack as they walk past” seat 😀

    Interesting point of view though, you can do an Easyjet or Vueling experience on the cheap and still get most of the service that goes with CE (as long as you’re not boozing, and let’s be honest, we all do it for the bubbly 😉 )

    • Depends if your wife likes 1A!

    • I liked 1C for the legroom, rather than 1A where your legs are up against the bulkhead and you can’t have anything at your feet – I prefer 2nd row as a result.

      • Lady London says:

        2nd Row is going to be smarter because apparently the CAA is making all the airlines put a bulkhead in front of Row 1 – at least on shorthaul aircraft. So Row 1 legrooom is gone.

      • Lady London says:

        1C is also known as the trolley-bash-;legs seat – as it wheels out from the galley and is turned -bash! to line up into the aisle 🙂

  11. Could you have booked 2 seats for yourself to ensure the middle seat remained empty, giving you an even closer CE experience?

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