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In the Newsroom

March 23, 2009
The not so friendly skies of Spain’s budget airline

Martin Seemungal took to the skies with one of Spain’s budget airplanes.

Worldfocus special correspondent Martin Seemungal writes about what it’s like to be a mobile journalist and vents about his luggage in Spain.

I’m a frequent traveler, but rarely fly on budget airlines. But when I learned an upcoming assignment would be in Spain, a friend told me “Fly with Vueling!” It’s the Spanish version of Ryanair or Easyjet…and so began my experience with a so-called “budget” airlines.

I had heard many stories about flying with budget airlines: The mad scramble for the elusive seat was a particular favorite and always somehow reminded me of the running with the bulls — only a lot less romantic.

But the crux of this whole matter is luggage. In general, when it comes to budget airlines, it seems you can’t take very much of anything. You can’t take much on the plane and you can’t put much in the plane down below.

When you start the whole process with Vueling, there’s a bunch of rules and regulations — the ones few people read — and somewhere in there is a number 20Kg, which is associated with a word: Suitcase.

You begin the booking procedure, departure and return dates, and then there’s a little box titled “suitcases for check in” which allows you to book/buy a suitcase, should you wish to. If you click on the dropdown you’ll get the option of choosing how many you would like to book/buy.

Now, I’m a television journalist and I travel with two checked bags. So, I chose to pay a small fee for two suitcases. Somewhere in all the warnings, you’re told that if you show up at check-in without paying for whatever it is you’re carrying, you will be charged more. I bought my ticket with two suitcases, confident I had covered all the bases.

Two and a half weeks later, I showed up at the check-in desk in Barcelona with the same two bags, armed with my computer printout. I put my bags on the scale and was immediately told “You have more than 20kg; you’ll have to pay for 25kg excess.”

At that point, I whipped out my printout and pointed to the fact I had already paid for two suitcases. I was prepared to pay for 5kg extra but an additional 20kg was outrageous.

It had no effect. I was told that each passenger is only allowed 20kg of checked baggage. “But I paid for two suitcases — surely that means another 20kg,” I argued.

But I was told that the number of suitcases has “nothing to do with the weight you are allowed.”

I was stunned. “You can’t be serious,” I said. But she was.

“Did you check the FAQs?” she said. “It’s all there.” I went to the relevant bit of the FAQs and came away no further ahead. Passengers can check in up to 20kg of luggage at a cost of 10 euro per flight and suitcase it stated. It then goes on to say that the maximum checked-in weight per passenger is 50Kg. I found it all ambiguous at best, misleading at worst.

I asked to see the supervisor. Despite my protests, he confirmed that, yes, that was the rule — 20kg per passenger, and you have to pay extra for every kilo above that. In the heat of our discussion, he then came out with a line I will never forget: “Sir, you can buy six suitcases if you want, but you’re still only allowed to take 20kg of checked luggage.”

I waited a moment before saying anything, hoping the silence would help amplify the insanity of his remark.

“Well, who would do that?” I said quietly. “Who would buy six suitcases to carry 20kg?”

“Sir, you’re not the first person who has had this kind of problem. Technically you’re supposed to fly back on your return flight under the same conditions as your outward flight. Of course, if you want to fly with the extra weight you’ll have to pay, but if you contact the airline maybe you’ll get a refund.”

I had no choice but to pay the equivalent of about $260 U.S. I later went online and filed an official complaint stating the process is misleading and asking for a refund.

It seems it wouldn’t take much to clear up the ambiguity. Somewhere near the part where you have the dropdown to buy one or two or FIVE suitcases. There should be a clear explanation that in fact: “The number of suitcases has no relation to the amount of checked luggage you are allowed.” Something like that. Or “You can buy all the suitcases you want but we strongly advise you not to put anything in most of them.”

I think if people saw that, they’d make sure to buy one suitcase and one suitcase only and fill it with 20kgs and only 20kgs.

I still haven’t heard back from Vueling, but I did get one of those automatically generated survey things telling me I was a valued and esteemed customer and asking me to comment on my recent flight with Vueling.

They can’t be serious!

– Martin Seemungal

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Dr. Jaus under a Creative Commons license.

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when flying from the USA to germany on luftansa i repeatedly have brought back 2 suit cases with ~25 kilos so a total of 50+ and i have only paid when i had one suit case that weighed in at 35 kg. but it was cheap as i had no carry on and i just put most of the stuff in a 3rd bag and carried it on.
now on the low cost airlines they are not only checking how big your bags are but also what they weigh for the cabin. I have never weighed my carry on when boarding a luftansa flight. I have also never been in one luftansa flight where there was not atleast one person with 2 “carry on” rollers


Mr Seemungal, do not expect any improvement from Vueling – they lost our luggage in August 2007 and no refund yet. They returned it 6 weeks later but because they ”stored” it in the open it was completely decayed. The ”customer service” included insults from their staff, hours of international phone calls put on hold, hanging up on us, outright lies etc etc. This is why I am so happy they have gone bust and are being bought up by the Iberia group; not a big fan either but worlds apart compared to Vueling.

My regards too to the Vueling staff posting here, posing as innocent participants.


The issue here is about the ambiguity of Vueling’s luggage rules with regard to checked baggage.
For example–if you go to ‘SkyEurope’ a budget airline that serves Central Europe you will see that in its luggage guidelines it states clearly that you are allowed to buy and check in up to 5 bags but the combined weight of all the bags cannot exceed 20kg.
At the moment that is not the case with Vueling and therefore its luggage rules—which allow you to purchase up to 5 bags—are misleading.
However, that is about to change. I received an email from Vueling today apologizing for the confusion. They agreed that it “may be confusing” and the representative also stated: “I understand that our terms and conditions may not be as clear as we intended they must be. Therefore, we are going to amend them to try to be more specific in this point.”
It is good they are going to rectify this issue because if it had not been for my experience on that front I would have rated this airline very highly. So clarifying its luggage regulations would be a very good thing indeed.



I´m sorry but I flew with Vueling more than 10 times and in my opinion they are a great company!

In reference to the excess baggage the have similar rules to Swiss, SN Brussels, Iberia or British…

The info about extra charge is explained in their web page.


No, you cannot check in as many KG as you want..without paying excess baggage. Depending on where you are travelling, most of the airlines you mentioned above allow you to take two checked bags of approximately 23kg free of charge. Certainly when I have flown via any European destination to Africa, the Middle East, Asia or North America, that has been the case. Anything beyond that you must pay excess baggage for. As far as I can tell you cannot ‘buy’ extra bags or suitcases online with the regular airlines. Vueling allows you to ‘buy’ an extra suitcase ..or 5…which is misleading at best when in reality you still can’t take more than 20kg without paying 8euro per kilo extra. Go to the Vueling online checkin it might help clarify this issue and the unfortunate ambiguity associated with it.


can you, all over the world, check-in as many kg as you want??I doubt. And I strongly desagree in one point: the subject you treat here is not an exclusive of Low cost airlines. Go try to do the same with Air France, Iberia, British Airways, Swiss, Lufthansa, etc etc. Back in 2001 I paid like 300€ for extra baggage in Swiss, when travelling from Barcelona to Oslo. Swiss is not A “LOW COST” airline. so please, ammend and do the right corrections.

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