Vueling is a curious hybrid. Its origins are as a Barcelona-based low cost carrier but several years ago it merged with Clickair, an entity that Iberia had set up as a low cost subsidiary. This left Iberia – and subsequently International Airlines Group after the British Airways merger – with a substantial stake in Vueling. Finally in 2013, IAG decided to fully take over Vueling.
Prior to the full takeover of Vueling, Iberia had strategically decided to abandon Barcelona, except for Puente Aereo / Air Bridge flights between Madrid and Barcelona which would connect to the Iberia route network in Madrid. However, the two companies agreed to offer most Vueling flights as Iberia codeshares. (for those unfamiliar, codeshare means that a flight is sold with an Iberia flight code – i.e. IB5555 – even though the flight is operated by Vueling)
This leads to some confusion. Despite being fully owned by full Oneworld members British Airways and Iberia, Vueling is NOT a member of the Oneworld alliance. Therefore, no Oneworld benefits will apply, even on Vueling flights booked with an Iberia (or BA) flight code. So, American Airlines AAdvantage, Air Berlin Topbonus, Cathay Pacific Marco Polo etc. members with elite status will NOT earn miles or receive lounge access, excess baggage, free seat selection, fast track security, etc. when flying on Vueling. That said, if you are the type who likes to “try it on”, you can always test and see whether a lounge attendant will let you into the lounge nonetheless – just know that the formal rules are not on your side.
Members of Iberia Plus, however, do have some way of benefiting from Vueling flights, particularly those booked as Iberia codeshares. In limited circumstances, members of British Airways Executive Club also can enjoy some benefits from Vueling flights.
Of course, most savvy Avios collectors know that they can earn Iberia Plus Avios and “Combine Your Avios” to move them across to British Airways Executive Club.
When booking a Vueling flight as an Iberia codeshare, this automatically books into what Vueling calls “Optima” class. Besides coming with an allowance for one checked piece of luggage, Iberia Plus members will earn Avios totaling 50% of the actual miles flown.
When booking via the Vueling website (not as a codeshare), Iberia Plus members can earn 150% of miles flown on Excellence fares (a quasi business class product with guaranteed empty middle seat). When flying on a “Basic” fare, no Avios are earned.
It is important to remember that only Iberia Plus Avios can be earned (no other form of miles including BA Avios) when you book directly with Vueling or as an Iberia codeshare.
Iberia Plus members can book award flights on Vueling, whenever an Iberia codeshare is available. These award bookings are entirely non-refundable. (you will even struggle to get taxes refunded, which in theory should be allowed)
I rarely find it to be good value to burn Avios on Vueling flights. Besides the non-refundable nature, I find that award availability tracks cash fares. So, one will never find a Vueling award seat on an otherwise expensive flight.
Iberia Plus members can earn Elite Points when flying on Vueling.
Iberia Plus members with Gold or Platinum status receive lounge access when flying Vueling. They should also receive fast track through security. However, no additional luggage allowance applies.
British Airways Executive Club
British Airways now also offers most Vueling flights as British Airways codeshares.
Whenever a Vueling flight is purchased as a British Airways codeshare, Executive Club members can:
- Earn Avios (only with Executive Club)
- Earn Tier Points
It is still a grey area as to whether BA elites can gain access to lounges whilst travelling on BA codeshares operated by Vueling. The formal rules on BA’s website state that elite members must travel on Oneworld airlines to enjoy lounge access. However, I pick up occasional reports of Gold-level members (not Silver) successfully receiving lounge access on Vueling flights, so it’s worth making an effort to ask.
In terms of baggage, standard Vueling rules apply (1 checked item for Optima fares). However, if the BA codeshare is booked in connection with a BA long haul flight – i.e. New York to London to Florence – then Vueling will honour the long haul baggage allowance, which will include elite status benefits.