I flew an LCC and I liked it? Flight Review of Vueling from Granada to Barcelona

This was my first time flying a low cost carrier in Europe and I was both excited to try a new airline but also worried about how I’d gel with the LCC model. Wow, could I sound my snobby if I tried? Probably not but, truth be told I’m very attached to my loyalty programs, so branching out into unaligned airlines, let alone an LCC is a big move for me.
 
To pop my LCC cherry in Europe, I arrived at the airport ridiculously early. Mainly because the bus schedule between Granada and the airport was sparse. I had the choice of arriving 3 hours early, or 50 minutes early. The latter gave rise to the prospect of me becoming one of those stereotypical EasyJet passengers arriving late and missing their flight from the British airport TV series of the early 2000’s. As such, I opted for the early option to avoid the pain of running late. I also had forgotten to apply sunscreen this morning so the idea of another 2 hours wandering Granada in the sun was not a viable option for this pasty white / sunburnt traveller.

Flight Details

Route: Granada (GRX) to Barcelona (BCN)
Airline: Vueling
Flight: VY2015
Aircraft: Airbus A320 (EC-LOP)
Seat: 6F
Cabin Class: Economy
Scheduled Departure: 9 May 2022 @ 18:35 – Actual Departure: 18:29
Scheduled Arrival: 9 May 2022 @ 20:05 – Landed at 19:48
Duration: 1:30 scheduled,  1:19 actual.

Granada Airport

Granada Airport Exterior
Granada airport is quite old fashioned in its appearance and seems rather under utilised with only 11 flights departing today. Those flights connect the airport to Madrid and Melilla on Iberia as well as Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca, Bilbao, Grand Canaria and Tenerife on Vueling. Effectively each airline has a monopoly on the routes they both service. This isn’t surprising given Vueling is the low cost airline of Iberia and that both are owned by IAG. There are occasional flights operated by Air Europa into the airport, but none on the day I was travelling.
 
Given the high numbers of tourists that are in Granada, it surprises me to how little connections outside of Spain are offered from this airport. I would have thought an Ryanair or EasyJet service to the UK would be well patronised. I’m assuming most visitors are flying into Seville or Valencia and making the land journey across southern Spain by train or bus. Alas, for the flights it services the airport offerings are relatively simple. The is a small check in area that is manned for each flight as well as a cafe before security. A nice breeze from outside flows into the seat I selected by the cafe as I waited for check in to open for my flight.
 
Checking in was very easy after waiting until the counters switched over from the earlier flight to Palma de Mallorca to Barcelona. I checked in with only 1 other person before me, almost being the first to check in. The check in agent was happy to see an Australian passport again, having commented on not seeing one in such a long time. The security area was yet to open for the earlier flight to Melilla so I waited in the terminal cafe for another hour before proceeding through security to the airside part of the terminal.
 
Security was quick despite being randomly selected for secondary screening. Once passed security I found the airside area of the airport was larger than I expected. There is self serve cafeteria offering the usual suspects of wine, soft drinks and snacks and a duty free area. Appealing to this aviation geek traveller however, there are benches along the window looking out onto the tarmac and runway. Unfortunately the blast screens block most of the view, but some view is better than none. The stools are way too tall for the bench to be able to do too much work without sustaining lower back pain, but I’m probably being overly picky now. A few steps through duty free there is more seating in front of the 3 gates that lead out onto the walk to the tarmac.
 
Overall its a functional airport that does the job but lacks much style or unique offerings.
Granada Airport Check In Hall

Lounge on an LCC? Yes, but not in Granada

Despite being a LCC, Vueling do sell lounge access as part of the add on’s available when booking. Despite this, there is no lounge in Granada so there is no add on available for my flight. As such, there is no lounge review for Granada airport. Instead I chilled in front of the windows waiting for my flight to land.
Granada Airport Airside Views

Boarding

Shortly after the incoming plane had stopped at the stand, boarding was called before the passengers had finished disembarking the arriving aircraft. I guess this is efficient as they get ID’s and passports checked and funnel passengers outside to wait while the aircraft is turned around quickly. Vueling conduct the boarding process in 3 groups. In a group I’m not familiar with, I was in group 3 – aka, the last group to board. For me this didn’t really matter as I only had a small backpack and was one of the first in my group to board.
 
I did note when booking I could add on priority boarding but the bundle with luggage didn’t have that included. With no aero bridges boarding is by stairs at the front and rear of the aircraft. I boarded from the front, which luckily for me, avoided the large group of passengers waiting to board the rear door. The red kick board on the boarding stairs looked like a red carpet had been rolled out for me to board my private jet. Maybe this LCC thing isn’t so bad after all.
 
Onboard I was greeted by friendly crew who welcomed me onboard (at least I think they did, it was in Spanish). It was a pleasant change to find some staff onboard who looked like they were having fun and actually enjoyed their jobs. I found my row empty, which allowed me to get a quick snap of the seat before taking my window seat. The plane was quite full but as I boarded the seats around me were still empty. Those quickly filled as the last of the passengers boarded and filled up most of the remaining empty seats.
Vueling Airbus A320 Aircraft at Granada

Departure

My plane was the only one on the ground and as we weren’t at a gate the aircraft was able to depart under its own power. It was a short taxi to the western end of the single runway airport for a departure on runway 09 to the east. Like my last few flights, this was a tailwind departure. Maybe it’s a Spanish thing as I can’t remember my last tailwind departure in Australia (and yes, I’m a nerd and always check the windsock before take off).
 
On the climb out we made a slight turn to the left which provided great views of the snow and ice capped Sierra Nevada mountains that provide the scenic backdrop to Granola. I’d been warned my many prior to visiting Granada to pack warm clothes as it’s near the mountains and gets cold, but with the sun shining and a warm 27 degrees, I was fine in shorts and t-shirt. As we climbed beneath us was Granada itself although by the time we were over it we were too high to make out features. We made a few turns around the mountains and then climbed above the clouds heading north east towards Valencia and then over the coastline of the Mediterranean sea onwards towards Barcelona.

InFlight Service

Although I didn’t really need to eat or drink, I wanted to try the buy on board menu and get a taste of what’s on offer. I figured that one of the claimed benefits of flying an LCC is you get more choice in what you choose to pay for, rather than getting a snack or drink determined by some accountant in head office.
 
The menu was both in the seat pocket and online and was pretty diverse in its offerings. There were meal packs as well as snack packs and a decent range of drinks and individual snacks. Cocktails, served from slim tubes that I saw passengers in front of me order were also on the menu. I opted for the lemon and poppyseed cake and a white wine, which on reflection was not really a suitable combination. Both were nice enough on their own, but for the €9 price tag, the cake was quite small and not the best quality. The wine was similar to what you’d get on any other airline in those cute airline sized bottles. I know it better for the environment, but wine out of a paper cup should be illegal. Mixing the wine and lemon and poppyseed cake together (which was 100% my fault) was not a great combination.
 
As we progressed, I noticed that the recorded announcements from the crew were interestingly in English first then Spanish, despite being a Spanish airline. This made it slightly easier for me and maybe appeals to the British holiday market. The cabin service was pretty quick and efficient and gave me something to do for the short flight other than film out the window. Again the crew were really quite energetic and seemed enthused about their jobs.
Vueling Buy On Board Menu

Aircraft Cabin

The interior of the cabin is all economy from tip to tail in the usual 3-3 layout. The seats look very similar to the British Airways seats albeit with what feels like a little less legroom. Looking at seat guru, the BA domestic A320’s operate with 168 passengers across 28 rows of around 30 inches of pitch. In contrast, this Vueling A320 adds 2 extra rows by using a pitch of 29 inches, fitting 180 passengers on board. That slight loss of legroom for everyone gives them a 12 seat advantage, providing you can sell all the seats.
 
The similarities in the seat is unsurprising given they are owned by the same parent company as British Airways.  At 173cm tall (on a good day) I fit into the seat ok although taller passengers might find it a tight fit. There is a lack of padding on these slimline seats and there is no recline, which the crew pointed out to a passenger in front; ‘this isn’t long haul, you’ll be fine.’  Being an LCC you can pay to sit in one or the extra legroom rows, but for €30 extra I gave it a miss. The row I was sitting in was full and yet I didn’t feel overly squished in for the short flight up to Barcelona.
Vueling Airbus A320 Economy Class Seating

Connectivity and Entertainment

Wifi is available on board and uses the same system as British Airways with a browse and steam flight pass available for €5.99 for the duration of the flight.  A messaging only package is also available for €2.49. I decided against logging on today as other than tracking my own flight on Flightradar24, I didn’t have any pressing need to be connected. Instead I bopped along to some pre-downloaded Spotify Eurovision playlists. I like the option of having connectivity available should one need it, especially for longer flights but haven’t had the need to try it on this trip to Europe. The wifi portal gives some very basis stats on the aircraft speed and altitude, which is a nice feature for the avgeeks amongst us (which lets face it, if you’ve gotten this far in, you probably either know me and are being kind or are an aviation enthusiast).
Vueling Wifi Home Page
Vueling Wifi Packages

Approach and arrival

Vueling Airbus A320 Engine view landing at Barcelona
We began our decent into Barcelona over the water providing a nice view of Barcelona city from the right side of the aircraft on landing. We arrived into terminal 1 which is the main terminal here in Barcelona. While generally Schengen passengers are don’t nee to go through any checks on arrival, due to that pesky thing called Covid, domestic and international passengers from within the Schengen zone are sorted before entering the baggage hall. I assume this is to check that people have filled out the required forms to enter Spain prior to their flight.
 
That said, it’s pretty much an honesty system as to which lane you choose. I assume that is because airlines are checking these before people board flights. I was flying in domestically but no one checked to confirm that prior to entering the domestic side. Once in the baggage halls, flights were still mixed, so I’m not sure how foolproof the system of checking is and must rely heavily on the pre-departure honesty and airline checking.
 
That said, providing you’re vaccinated, other than completing a form there aren’t really any restrictions on entering Spain either way. Not an unreasonable requirement given the pandemic situation. The line for international looked like it was moving unobstructed so don’t see it as a barrier for slowing transit through the airport. I waited at the baggage carousel for about 20mins before bags finally started arriving – after watching the carousel start and stop a few times teasing us with anticipation.
 
After collecting my bag I made my way to the transportation area of the airport and found the airport shuttle bus. The blue hybrid bus goes express to the city centre every 5-10minutes. Google told me it was about 30mins faster than the train, and I was ready to get into town quickly so spent the €5.90 and boarded the bus. The self service kiosk was easy to buy a ticket, yet a lot of people were lining up to buy a ticket from the one staff member. About 30 minutes later I was in the city and making my way to my AirBnb for my stay in Barcelona.
Vueling Airbus A320 in Barcelona

Final thoughts on my first European LCC experience

This flight popped by European LCC carrier cherry and I must say, I kinda liked it. I did like the choice when booking to pay for what I wanted instead of just a one size fits all approach, but at the same time missed the priority lanes, no risk baggage allowances, lounge before the flight and the feeling one gets by holding airline status. I really appreciated the buy on board options and being able to pick what I wanted from a broad selection as I find that those free snacks on legacy airlines are getting worse as each year passes. I can see buy on board being something I’d be fond of embracing in the future.
 
I also liked the convenience of flying direct to my destination (I know, I just said I preferred to fly direct – I must be unwell), although given how friendly the crew were, wouldn’t have minded another sector along the way. I’d fly Vueling again providing the price was competitive. That’s probably the only gripe I have as it’s always a bit hard to compare with the LCC’s as often once you add baggage and snack you’re at the same price as a legacy. Overall an enjoyable flight and was glad to have tried something new and come away feeling good about it.
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