Vueling at 20: what lies ahead for Spain's leading low-cost airline?

In anticipation of Vueling's big birthday in 2024, Weather2Travel.com popped across to the headquarters of Spain's leading low-cost airline in Barcelona*.

Vueling Airbus A320 at Portela Airport, Lisbon, Portugal - © <a href='https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Vueling_A320,_Portela_Airport.jpg' target='new window o' rel='nofollow'>MPKN20</a> - Wikimedia <a href='https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en' target='new window l' rel='nofollow'>CC BY-SA 3.0</a>
Vueling Airbus A320 at Portela Airport, Lisbon, Portugal - © MPKN20 - Wikimedia CC BY-SA 3.0

Founded in 2004, Vueling* is now part of International Airlines Group (IAG), the Spanish-based parent company formed in 2011 that also has British Airways, Iberia, Aer Lingus and LEVEL airlines under its wing.

Here, we'll look at some of the innovations happening now and set to revolutionise the future of air travel as well as find out a little more about this much-loved, grey-spot-tailed favourite.

Stay up-to-date with developments and new routes in our dedicated Vueling news section.

Inside Vueling HQ

It's a rather uninspiring December morning when we arrive at the Vueling headquarters just outside Josep Tarradellas Barcelona-El Prat Airport (BCN), the tell-tale yellow façade the only brightness above us.

Entering on a busy Monday morning, there's a buzz as employees settle into the working week, going into stylish meeting rooms and dosing up on strong coffees.

We're taken to see the beating heart of the airline, the Integrated Operation Control Center (IOCC). At the press of a button, a room twinkling with screens is revealed through privacy glass and we get a glimpse of the number of aircraft on the ground, in the air and where they are in the world.

This is where every aircraft is tracked and monitored, and problems big and small are dealt with in conjunction with pilots, relevant airports and air traffic controllers. It's a thrill for the aviation-curious to see, a glimpse behind the electro-controlled curtain.

Vueling's Integrated Operation Control Center (IOCC)
Vueling's Integrated Operation Control Center (IOCC) © Vueling

From here, we're shown the Crisis Center including a super hi-tech Emergency Response Center which, thanks to Vueling impeccable safety record, has never been used IRL but, as Jorge Rodrigues, Emergency Specialist states, "The important thing when you have an emergency is to be able to handle it - we trial it all the time."

We head up through the tall thin building, each floor named after a different destination, to find out more about what the airline has in store in this, its twentieth year, and beyond.

Did you know?

  • Vueling is a multi-award-winning low-cost airline
  • It's based in Barcelona & part of the IAG family
  • It's pronounced 'V-well-ing'
  • It's both the largest domestic & low-cost airline in Spain
  • London Gatwick is Vueling's UK base; it's also the airline's second-largest hub outside of Spain after Paris (Orly)

Utilising technology

Vueling has always trailblazed when it comes to utilising technology. From the early launch of its app in 2009 and becoming the first airline in the world to implement contactless payments via its app to its adoption of facial recognition at self-bag-drop, it continues to push the boundaries today.

For the team in the airline's Innovation Lab, the Vueling app remains at the heart of its passengers' experience. From buying flights and checking in, even to boarding via facial recognition (the latter now available at 12 airports across Spain*), Vueling is working towards a fully automated experience for all travellers.

As Director of IT, Javier Alvarez says: "The main driver is to make the process seamless for our customers". Of course, it's vital that the day-to-day systems can be relied upon. As Alvarez states: "If the website, the app or the airport's online facilities aren't working, that affects hundreds if not thousands of customers."

Javier Alvarez - IT Director at Vueling
Javier Alvarez - IT Director at Vueling © Vueling

Another piece of the puzzle relies on top-notch security, something Vueling takes extremely seriously with, "Cybersecurity becoming more and more important," according to Alvarez.

The team, split across the HQ in Barcelona and another office in the city of Zaragoza, works in an agile manner with a zero obsolescence policy, ensuring everything is constantly updating and developing.

Then there's the nonstop research and testing of the likes of AI, VR and AR not to mention tweaking the office's very own robot, TIAgo, Vueling's handy in-house virtual assistant.

With one eye always on the future, the innovative Vueling University tempts talented individuals eager to learn to join its intensive training programme in tech and development offering the prospect of potential employment at the end.

Find the latest offers on fares with our collection of current online savings from Vueling.

Striving to be sustainable

The words 'sustainability' and 'flying' never sit comfortably together; travel as a whole can be a tricky one to square with sustainable practices. However, sustainability takes many forms and is dependent on innovations as well as changing attitudes and habits.

We know that flying is not 'good' for the planet. But people want and need to travel. To this end, Vueling has an evolving, comprehensive sustainability strategy* to try and reduce the marks left by air travel, including its pledge of net-zero emissions by 2050. This is perched upon several pillars: namely, fleet, fuel, efficiency, banning plastics and recycling.

Understanding SAF

'SAF', short for sustainable aviation fuel, is the acronym of the moment. It made headlines in 2023 when Virgin Atlantic flew the first SAF-only flight from London to New York in late November but it's relatively unknown to the average air traveller.

One of the things that makes petroleum-free SAF so appealing is that it can be used in existing aircraft; no need to tinker with engines or reinvent the rotating blade. However, there are growing pains.

The famous Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain
The famous Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain © Manuel Milan - Adobe Stock Image

Made up of, among other things, biofuel like cooking oil, SAF provides an alternative to traditional aviation fuel but there are currently major issues over supply, both in the volume of production and where it is produced. For example, the SAF used in Virgin Atlantic's flight had to be flown to the UK from both the US and the EU.

Then there's the need for eco-friendly (i.e. palm oil-free) certification to ensure that the biofuels used haven't come at the expense of the planet elsewhere.

In September 2023, the EU parliament voted through a new mandate on sustainable aviation fuel, which requires incremental increases in the percentage used by airlines over coming years, with 2% required in 2025, 6% in 2030, 20% in 2035, 34% in 2040, 42% in 2045, and 70% in 2050.

IAG, Vueling's parent company, has gone one further, pledging to integrate as much as 10% of SAF by 2030, more than stated by the new mandate. While sourcing SAF appears to be one of the biggest concerns, the airline is striving to lead the way on SAF integration and setting an example by lowering its emissions.

Did you know? Vueling recently added a select number of pet food items to its buy-on-board menu for those travelling with pets within the EU.

Operating optimally

Unsurprisingly, the efficiency that comes from operating optimally is an important element. Route planning, for example, is a key weapon in the efficiency armoury, with considered planning and working with up-to-date forecasts all able to play a part in lowering emissions.

On board, initiatives such as reducing the weight of in-flight catering trolleys, using lighter seats and even encouraging pilots to fly with less (although well above the minimum requirement per route) fuel where appropriate are having an impact. Then there's the increased recycling and a ban on plastics such as cutlery.

VuelingLow fare finder

Vueling isn't the only airline tackling the many challenges that face the travel and aviation industries, from co-existing with environmental targets to maintaining online security.

However, its countless awards, excellent track record for safety and time-keeping, and great value fares are what keep travellers coming back, again and again.

Ready to fly with Vueling? Don't miss the latest online offers on flights with Spain's leading low-cost carrier.

More about Vueling >>

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Updated on Friday 5 January 2024

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