Dangerous experiment which got me the best seat on a plane.
Low-cost airline Vueling charges for the seat selection – you need to pay from around 5 to 15 euros extra to get a good seat (depends on your ticket price). It can be simply different seat to the one which was pre-assigned to you at check-in, front rows seats or exit row seats. For the actual front row seat you need to buy Excellence fare or pay a few hundred euros for an onboard upgrade. This is essentially Vueling’s business class which comes with Fast Track, lounge access, free food on board and ticket flexibility. (See detailed guide to Vueling seats here.)
I normally prefer to pay a bit extra and get myself an exit row seat which is very spacious, it also comes with priority boarding and even special check-in desk at Barcelona airport. This is very helpful when you are checked-in online but want to drop your checked bag and there are huge queues to regular Vueling check-in counters. But sometimes it worth leaving check-in till the last moment…
Every cloud has a silver lining
Once I was flying with a friend who was unable to check-in online for some unknown reason. She had to check-in in person and to her great surprise, she was seated in the front row – in one of the very few Excellence seats – absolutely free! And although she didn’t get the service (free food and booze), she had a spacious seat with a charger.
That made me thinking that those who are last to check-in in person, might be lucky to get very good remaining paid-for seats – totally free! Also I remember how once Vueling gate agent was looking for volunteers to be bumped off the flight in exchange for a good monetary compensation. So all in all, I wasn’t risking much: I could either get a good seat, a regular seat or – if the flight is completely full – I would be bumped off the flight and will get a compensation and a free seat on the next available flight. It was a weekend and I was flying from London to Barcelona, so I had enough time and curiosity to try this out.
I always check-in online, and not doing it this time felt very odd. Getting to Gatwick as usual was challenging and stressful: trains were running with delays. I arrived 20 min before the end of check-in. What I saw there didn’t make me happy: a queue of about 20 passengers to the Vueling check-in desks. There are no dedicated desks per flight, rather checking everyone at any available Vueling desk, so I had no idea where everyone is flying to. After 10 min of nervous queuing, I went to check-in agent and informed him that I am flying to Barcelona and maybe I can jump the queue. Agent calmly asked me to return to the queue. A few minutes later he asked who is flying to Barcelona and everyone in the queue raised their hands. I felt much better now. Agents started working quicker and soon it was my turn. Since I left the queue to ask an agent and then re-joined it, I was the very last one to check-in. To my surprise, I got desirable, glorious 1A! I have to say, it was first time in my life when I was flying in 1A and I was very proud and happy (silly, I know). Even more so because I paid exactly zero for this premium seat.
The flight was very nice. The crew didn’t ask me anything: no greeting by my name, no food or drinks offering. I guess they know who is ‘legit’ high spender onboard and who is a lucky cheapskate like me 🙂 That actually was fine by me, because I had my packed lunch from Pret and didn’t fancy anything from Vueling’s poor and overpriced food menu.
Although my experiment was a success, I don’t recommend anyone trying this strategy if you are in a hurry to get from point A to point B. Vueling is routinely overbooking its flights, so you are risking to be bumped off your flight. But I wonder if I was just lucky or if anyone else had a similar experience.
Happy flighting! (as the say in ‘Come fly with me’ 🙂