Is Vueling Safe? (Yes, It Is.)

Vueling is a Spanish low-cost airline based at Barcelona El Prat Airport, with hubs also at Paris Orly and Rome Fiumicino airports. It is the largest airline in Spain as measured by fleet size. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Vueling carried more than 34 million passengers a year (2019).

The airline has been part of the International Airlines Group, the parent company of British Airways and Iberia, since 2013. Vueling is a very safe and modern airline that should raise no cause for concern – read on to find out why.

Is Vueling Safe?

Vueling Operates a Modern Fleet

Vueling operates an all-Airbus fleet of more than 120 narrowbody aircraft with an average age of 9 years, that’s quite modern compared to other large European airlines. For example, Lufthansa’s average fleet age is 10.5 years, United Airlines’ is 16.5 years, KLM’s is 10.9 years, Air France’s is 14.3 years, British Airways’ is 12.9 years, and Swiss’ is 9.8 years.

Its oldest aircraft currently in operation are some of its A319s and A320s which went into service in 2006. However, Vueling is expecting the delivery of some brand-new Airbus aircraft too. Based on the Airbus order book data for November 2022, the airline is waiting for the delivery of eight A320neo and nine A321neo aircraft which will help to maintain a low average fleet age for the airline.

An all-Airbus narrowbody fleet brings some distinct operational efficiencies to an airline. This streamlines aircraft maintenance as the aircraft in the same family share many of the same parts. Also, the aircraft’s flight controls and navigational systems are so similar that they are all covered by a common type rating which means that a pilot who is qualified to fly an A319 is also qualified to fly A320s and A321s.

This means that Vueling’s pilots have a strong understanding of, and familiarity with, the A320 family aircraft’s flight controls and characteristics, providing additional comfort for passengers that they are in the hands of competent pilots who are fully familiar with the aircraft’s systems.

Vueling’s current operational fleet consists of five A319s, 101 A320s, and 17 A321s. All of these aircraft are part of the A320 family, these planes were the first civil aircraft to utilize fly-by-wire technology. The A320 family is one of the safest, most efficient, and technologically advanced passenger aircraft families in the world. These aircraft types are utilized by many of the world’s most recognizable and trusted airlines, including Air Canada, American Airlines, British Airways, Lufthansa, etc.

Vueling’s Safety Registration and Oversight

Vueling is IOSA (IATA Operational Safety Audit) registered, meaning it passes the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) rigorous global safety management standards. This certification is purely voluntary and certification is renewed every two years. Vueling’s current certification is valid until February 2024.

Although Vueling is not part of one of the world’s major airline alliances, it is owned by IAG which also owns Iberia, Aer Lingus, and British Airways. Iberia and British Airways are members of the Oneworld alliance. As such, Vueling customers can take some comfort from the fact that its ultimate ownership also controls a number of other major international airlines.

And, whilst Oneworld frequent flyers do not earn Oneworld status points/miles when traveling on Vueling flights, many Vueling flights are codeshare flights and can be booked via British Airways, Iberia, and other Oneworld member booking channels. Vueling has its own frequent flyer program called Vueling Club, which allows members to earn and redeem Avios points for flight awards or fare discounts on Vueling and IAG flights, and for award travel on other Oneworld alliance partners.

Vueling is safety-regulated by the Spanish Aviation Safety and Security Agency – AESA (Agencia Estatal de Seguridad Aérea). AESA’s ICAO Safety Audit results are good with effective implementation in the range of 80% to 100% for the eight areas audited, well above the global average for all eight audit areas. The IATA audit assesses a nation’s approach to airline safety oversight and regulation.

Vueling A320

JACDEC Safety Assessment

Vueling placed 19th in a 2021 study of 100 airlines conducted by the Hamburg-based Jet Airliner Crash Data Evaluation Centre (JACDEC). JACDEC assesses the 100 largest airlines as measured by their revenue passenger performance (RPKs), and the ranking is based on a wide variety of factors. These factors include:

  • Fleet age
  • Accident history since 1989
  • International safety audits
  • Level of government openness related to aviation safety
  • Country risk factors (high terrain, seasonal harsh weather, etc.)
  • Route profile (proportion of short-haul flights), on the basis that the higher that proportion of short-haul flights an airline operates, the more take-offs and landings it is likely to operate, and these portions of a flight are known to be the riskiest

The Vueling assessed risk factor for 2021 was 90.56, and JACDEC indicates that Vueling has not suffered any fatal, non-fatal, or total hull loss accidents at least since 1989. In fact, my research on Vueling’s safety record (see below) didn’t reveal any major accidents.

The top-ranked airline in JACDEC’s 2021 assessment was Emirates with a score of 94.75. Interestingly, Vueling’s 2021 JACDEC score is higher than its IAG counterparts – Malaysia Airlines (97th), American Airlines (73rd), Iberia (71st), Alaska Airlines (66th), British Airways (59th), Japan Airlines (55th), Qatar Airways (33rd), and Qanats (26th).

Vueling’s Safety Record

As with any large airline, Vueling aircraft encounter occasional maintenance issues that cause diversions, hit major turbulence, suffer bird strikes and lightning strikes, or have to abort a take-off or landing for safety reasons. These minor incidents happen no more frequently with Vueling than with any other major airline and should be no cause for concern.

I have researched Vueling’s safety record, and I found that Vueling aircraft have not been involved in accidents that result in injuries, and have not suffered any fatal accidents. I only found three incidents worth reporting here, none of which were particularly serious as they did not result in any injuries:

Date Aircraft Location Commentary
May 2016 A320 Manchester Airport, UK Aircraft collided with a ground service vehicle. No injuries.
June 2017 A320 Alicante Airport, Spain Aircraft collided with a ground service vehicle. No injuries.
October 2018 A320 Bilbao Airport, Spain Engine cowling detachment on take-off. No injuries.

Summary: Is Flying with Vueling Safe?

Vueling is a major European airline owned by one of Europe’s major airline groups – IAG. Vueling operates a young fleet comprised of safe, modern, and technologically advanced Airbus A319, A320, and A321 aircraft, with more of these aircraft on order.

Vueling is IOSA (IATA Operational Safety Audit) registered and is overseen by the very capable Spanish aviation safety regulator – EASA. Vueling also scored well in the 2021 JACDEC safety assessment.

My conclusion is that Vueling is a safe airline, and I would have no hesitation stepping aboard a Vueling aircraft.

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