Vueling vs. Ryanair: the battle for Barcelona has started!

The arrival of low-cost airline Ryanair to Barcelona has got the incumbent airlines up in arms. The Irish airline has designated BCN to be its 42nd base in Europe and is going to start 20 routes from the Catalan capital this September (Ryanair already serves "Barcelona" through two of its bases: Girona, GRO, and Reus, REU, both about an hour away from the city) .

One of the airlines presumed to be most affected is local carrier Vueling, that although operating on a low-cost model, prides itself on a superior level of service, including flexible tickets and a frequent flier programme, that would make it more similar to a full-service network airline (it will soon start offering connection flights too).

Vueling Airbus A320

Vueling Airbus A320

In a pre-emptive marketing move, and while not a single Ryanair plane has yet been spotted at BCN, Vueling has launched an online campaign, "We love clouds", that offers everyone that bought a ticket with Ryanair on the 27th of May (the day after Ryanair announced the new routes) to make the outbound leg of the trip with Vueling, free of charge. Vueling is playing on its strength in customer service, with the obvious goal to make people notice the difference in service and comfort between the two legs of the trip: outbound with Vueling and inbound with Ryanair.

I have flown with both airlines and, in what comes to the "travel experience", I share Vueling's conviction that they will win hands down, however, and now more than ever, short-haul air passengers have proven to be quite price-sensitive and here Vueling is going to have a more difficult challenge ahead...