Date: 09. July 2016.
Chronicle of chaos foretold…
Over the last few weeks Vueling has received a lot of negative press about flight cancellations and severe delays in the run up to the busy summer holiday period. As usual, rumours and accusations were many – with the Spanish newspapers allegedly knowing that in fact the Vueling staff were on strike and that this was the real cause for the many irregularities. The airline’s new management of course, blames everything on the old management, which was pushing hard for expansion at all costs.
The upshot of it all is that when the time came for Vueling to station an Airbus A 320 in Zürich for the summer, they realised that in fact they did not have an aircraft available to do so. But rather than cancelling the flights, Vueling decided to lease a Boeing B 747-400 from Wamos Air, just for the month of July. Of course, I simply couldn’t resist…
And so I find myself in Lanzarote on a sunny Saturday morning. It is just coming up 11 in the morning and I have just stepped off an Air Europa flight from Madrid. I now have four hours before my flight back to Zürich at 15h30, hopefully on the mighty Queen of the Skies.
But then at around 11h30 the messages and e-mails from Vueling start arriving, informing me that there are a few operational issues that will probably see my flight leaving with a delay. To be honest, I don’t really mind. Like this I can spend more time relaxing in the sun.
The flight is first moved from 15h30 to 16h40. Then a bit later the departure is moved back further to 17h40. I check on the web and I think I can actually hear the crack as my heart breaks – there has been an aircraft change and instead of the 747 they are sending a Greek registered puny little Airbus A 319.
The flight time to Zürich is four hours and Lanzarote is one hour behind Zürich. Zürich airport has a curfew in place from 23h00 to 06h03. Now you do the maths. This is going to be tight. Eventually, boarding starts at 17h30 and I figure if we manage to get airborne by 18h00, we might just manage to squeeze in before the curfew. So all the passengers board the bus to take us to the aircraft – and nothing happens.
After waiting for about ten minutes for seemingly no reason at all and nobody on the ground bothering to tell us anything, a group of passengers disembark the bus and decide it is a really great idea to have a smoke, right there on the apron in front of all the pretty airplanes being refuelled. I tell the bus driver that smoking really is not permitted, to which he simply replies that he is just the bus driver from Swissport. By this time I’ve definitely had enough. I take my bag and walk back into the terminal. Much to me surprise, the gate agents don’t seem at all surprised to see me and instead they just hand me a pink transfer card.
Eventually, all the other passengers walk back into the terminal as well. There is no information provided by Swissport and quite evidently, they really couldn’t care less. By this time it is already past six in the evening, seven in Switzerland, so what ever happens, we will not be returning to Zürich tonight. I inquire with the gate attendant about the delay and she explains that the aircraft is overweight and they are trying to figure out what to do next.
In any case, to cut a long story short, by 19h30 it becomes perfectly apparent to everyone that the aircraft will not be flying to Zürich this evening. So instead, the flight will be rerouted to Barcelona. The passengers will be sent home the next day either via Rome or Barcelona. By this time though, I think it is sufficiently clear just how unreliable and unorganised Vueling is and I am not prepared any more to take my chances with them. I have another flight coming up on Monday from Zürich, which I don’t plan on missing because of somebody else’s bad planning. And so I make other arrangements.