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Low cost carriers have built a profitable business model by charging for services that most passengers used to take for granted. One of these services is seat selection. But since Vueling is owned by British Airways and Iberia, and offers codeshares with both airlines, it can end up being rather confusing to figure out exactly how to pre-select a seat.
The first thing to note is that you partially have to forget your online check-in reflex which probably is “oh, I’m flying tomorrow I’d better check-in online”. With Vueling, you check-in and print your boarding pass at any stage after booking your flight. In fact, some airports don’t allow online check-in within 24 hours of departure, since control over seat allocation sometimes passes to airport staff at T-24 hours.
Vueling Basic Fare
Let’s get the easiest option out of the way first. Vueling‘s “Basic” fare is only available when booking through vueling.com. If you book a “Basic” fare, you will need to pay if you want to select a seat. Otherwise, the computer system will choose one for you and, trust me, you will not be happy with the computer’s selection. If you are travelling with somebody on the same booking, you might be split up for no apparent reason. The computer fills seats from the back rows going forward, and respects no preference for aisle or window seats. Why? I suspect that the algorithm is designed to tempt people to actually end up paying for a seat, even though it’s actually illegal to seat children apart from their guardians for example.
I suppose the only upside is that you don’t have to complete the check-in process. You can manage your booking at vueling.com, start to check-in to see what seat you are allocated for free, and stop the process if you are unhappy. In a couple of days you can try again and see if a better seat is allocated to you. (as other travelers in the interim will have checked in) That middle seat might now be an aisle, in row 29 instead of 31…
Vueling Optima Fare
Both Iberia and British Airways codeshares book into the Optima Fare, which allow you to pre-select a seat. But which seats exactly? Vueling have six different types of seats, all with different pricing!
The seat type you are entitled to pre-select when booking an IB / BA codeshare is highlighted in yellow – “Seat in the front rows“. These have no extra legroom, but are simply closer to the front. You might end up with some empty middle seats as well when the flight isn’t full, since these seats cost more and the computer has stuffed those unwilling to pay into the back rows. Also, if you try to sneak into an exit row seat for some legroom, often a flight attendant will send you back to your assigned seat or ask you to pay more… As I mentioned recently, your Oneworld elite status is worthless onboard.
Vueling Excellence Fare
If you are booking a supposedly “Business Class” fare from BA or Iberia for a Vueling codeshare, you will be booked into Excellence. You can also book this fare through vueling.com. (but you will receive a measly 4 Avios per euro spent) This entitles you to select a front row seat on vueling.com. And if the flight attendants are doing their jobs, you will have overhead bins reserved for your things.
How to Actually Select Seats?
OK. So you know what you are entitled to. But how do you actually pre-select seats? If you booked through vueling.com you don’t have a problem – just manage your booking. If you’ve booked a codeshare, things can get more complicated.
When booking through either Iberia or British Airways (or a travel agent) as a codeshare, you will receive a PNR / booking reference from the vendor. Unfortunately Vueling won’t recognise this because a separate Vueling PNR has also been issued. However, you may or may not be informed of your Vueling PNR, which you will require in order to select seats in advance.
Your first port of call should be managing your booking online wherever you bought it – i.e. iberia.com or ba.com. Try clicking on a link for “online check-in”. This may or may not redirect you properly to the Vueling website, with your flight details already provided.
You might instead get a message, particularly on iberia.com, suggesting that you can’t check in until 24 hours before departure. That, sadly, is misinformation based on Iberia’s policies for its own flights. However, look around your booking details. Perhaps you can find something along the lines of “other locator”. That is going to be your Vueling PNR. Go to vueling.com and manage your booking there.
If neither of those strategies work, well then maybe this one will…
Sign Up for Vueling Club
Amidst all of the angst of Avios.com supposedly shutting down, I mentioned that you should consider opening a Vueling Club account (or Aer Lingus) to keep some of the regular avios.com functionality alive, such as Combine Your Avios.
However, a Vueling Club account also comes in handy when selecting a seat for Vueling flights. In my experience, if your Vueling Club account uses the same e-mail address as your BA or IB accounts (as it should if you want to Combine Your Avios), then any Vueling bookings made via BA or Iberia will automatically appear in the “Your Bookings” section of your Vueling Club account.
Why is it so hard to pre-select a seat for free? What are your impressions of Vueling?