Vueling Airlines is a no frills Spanish based airline with a base in Barcelona and another in Rome.
London Gatwick – Rome Fiumicino. Aircraft Airbus A320
It was not a good start to the flight to Rome. Due to problems with air traffic control at Marseille the flight was delayed.
Check-in was done at the desk as opposed to an electronic check-in console. However, there were enough staff dealing with the passengers that although there was a wait the queue kept moving. Psychologically you do feel you are getting somewhere when there is movement. At the desk check-in was smooth but above all quick. It was then the usual route to departures through security which at Gatwick South is always pretty quick.
Once through security we discovered the flight was delayed and more information would become available one hour after the scheduled departure. This was extended several more times.
Almost an hour and a half after the scheduled departure time we finally had the call to proceed to the assigned gate. As with many low-cost airlines boarding is not via an air bridge but by passengers walking from the departure gate. Both front and rear doors were used which does speed up the boarding process.
Boarding was quickly done. No doubt this was because passengers had been in the terminal departure lounge for a considerable time and were therefore all present and eager to get on board.
Hopes of a departure were dashed as the pilot announced we had lost our slot and had to wait for another one. It would be a another 10 minutes before push back. 10 minutes came and went; so did 20 minutes and 30. Finally the pilot told us there was no tractor unit available for to push us back.
The crew came around with water to keep us all hydrated and were considering handing out snacks when the tractor unit to push us back finally arrived. Eventually we departed 3 hours 8 minutes late. Whether it was the airlines fault or something outside their control it did nothing for their reputation as the least punctual European airline. How they dealt with it was definitely up to them. One of the most irritating things about delays is having no information. Once in the hands of the airline staff we were kept up to date about the delay, what caused it and the likely departure time. We did received apologies for each additional delay.
Service was with a smile. Although there was a willing and helpful aura among the cabin crew there was one thing missing; the verbal welcome at the aircraft door. This is not to say that they were grim faced and grumpy. Quite the opposite.
The interior of the plane was corporate neutral grey with darker grey trim. Yellow headrest covers provided the colour. This was pleasant but not gaudy.
The seat pitch was a little on the parsimonious side. I am an average height and found my knees touching the seat in front with little room for any movement. The gentleman behind was taller by a handful of centimetres and I could constantly feel his knees pushing in my back through the thin seats.
It was an extremely turbulent flight due to the heatwave over a great deal of Continental Europe. Inflight service was difficult to assess as it was withdrawn before it reached us. However, it seemed to be the standard fare of snacks and drinks that you had to purchase at the standard industry prices for low cost airlines.
Vueling may well have the reputation of the least punctual airline in Europe but the check-in and on board experience were above average for the no frills sector. Unlike some budget airlines, we did not feel like herded cattle and were not bombarded with sales pitches for all the ancillary products and services. Despite the delay it was a pleasant flight which in my opinion was the down to the cabin crew.
Addendum: Unfortunately we experienced a two hour delay on the return leg (FCO-LGW) due to what was eupehmiscally referred to as a technical fault. This was compounded by having to wait for the departure from Rome of the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. Nevertheless, the on-board experience was just as good as the outbound journey.