Vueling to have wings clipped over farcical flight chaos

Image of passengers at the airport. Credit: IR Stone/Shutterstock

SPANISH no-frills airline Vueling will face the wrath of the national administration following a fourth straight day of unexplained cancellations and delays.

The Ministry of Infrastructure’s Air Safety Agency ordered the company’s president, Javier-Sanchez Prieto, to ‘come in’ on Monday July 4, as more than 8,000 passengers have been left stranded at Barcelona’s El Prat airport since Friday, with a number of cancellations from other destinations, including Malaga and Mallorca.

“Vueling cannot get out of what happened this weekend for free,” said Public Works Minister Ana Pastor. “In this country, to annoy passengers entails an inquiry that can lead to a sanction.”

Vueling forms part of British Airways and Iberia umbrella company IAG, and has said that extra staff have been enlisted to cope with “operational difficulties” which saw 14 flights axed on Sunday alone, with at least 46 grounded overall as the low-cost specialist refused to confirm precise numbers.

Others have suffered from unexpected delays or surprise stopovers, and Cataluña’s regional government also wants to speak with red-faced Vueling officials regarding the fiasco, releasing a statement which read: “We demand that the company changes its attitude to resolve the problems affecting its operations.”

Employees, meanwhile, say that planning for the summer campaign, with record numbers of tourists expected on the Iberian Peninsula has been “disastrous”, with one high-ranking source telling El Pais: “During Easter we could already foresee that this was going to happen.

“We lost control over operations, personnel and flight crews. Later, we saw that more flights were being sold than we could possibly operate.”

The unnamed informant also suggested that some of the shortfalls include an insufficient number of staff able to man the cockpit, adding: “On some flights, there were two captains because there were not enough trained copilots.”

Many of Vueling’s flights pass through French air space, with the situation said to have been exacerbated by air traffic control strikes in the neighbouring country.

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