As European LCCs go, Vueling dances to the beat of its own drummer. Known for its witty aircraft christenings, its understated yet warm and friendly brand identity, and its forward-thinking adoption of new technologies, the Barcelona-based IAG airline, balances budget with smarts and brings a fresh attitude to the point-to-point passenger experience.
Vueling has just announced a code-share agreement with its Oneworld partner, American Airlines, which gives the largest airline in the world more destinations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and generates more traffic for Vueling as a feeder for AAL’s long-haul flights.
Vueling has also just introduced a new “Wifing” IFC service – the fastest connectivity option in Europe – through a partnership with Thales’ LiveTV, and unique partnership with Spanish communications giant, Telefónica, to provide onboard mobile connections.
We chatted with Maria Cardenal, head of Ancillary Revenue and Product Development at Vueling, about the importance of connectivity for the passenger experience, the future of IFE at Vueling, her experiences as a leading woman in aviation and what matters most to her when she takes to the skies.
How does Vueling’s new in-flight connectivity help refine your unique brand?
We have introduced the first airplane in Europe to use a satellite Ka-band connection, and there are only two others in North America using this technology. We’re betting on the most advanced technology to define our brand.
How does this new high-speed connection enhance the passenger experience for Vueling’s customers?
Today’s passengers are more demanding. They expect a higher quality in-flight experience, and that includes their connectivity services. That’s the challenge – giving passengers the same experience in the air as they enjoy on the ground.
What features drove your decision to select Thales’ Ka-Band Connection?
We selected Thales’ LiveTV satellite Ka-Band connection because, for us, Thales was an ideal partner for the level of advanced technology we wanted to offer. It’s cutting-edge and the strength of Thales means we get better support.
For now you’re offering connectivity alone, but will you capitalize on LiveTV’s content capabilities?
Passengers have different content needs on shorter flights than the traditional in-flight movie. We’re analyzing what types of entertainment content our passengers will most enjoy on shorter flights. We’re also looking at options for sponsored and branded content, infotainment and destination content.
What IFE innovations can we expect from Vueling?
BYOD (bring-your-own-device) entertainment is a good fit for us, with more passengers bringing their own devices with them when they travel. This approach represents a savings of weight and equipment costs for us, too.
How did the mobile partnership with Telefónica come about?
We wanted to bring a high quality option to our customers and to innovate by finding partners which could make the best offer to the end user. We approached Telefónica with the proposal and they were very receptive.
How important is tech to Vueling?
It’s very important to us to maintain the latest generation of technological advances, and that includes inflight connectivity. In the US, connectivity is more common, but it’s still not common everywhere. The US has the one-market, one-region advantage in this regard. It’s trickier in Europe with many countries and many regulations to reconcile.
Your bragging-rights at Vueling?
I started at Vueling in 2007, and from the beginning I’ve focused on finding new service improvements which add value to passengers without adding burdensome costs to the airline.
Your experience as a woman in aviation?
Aviation has been traditionally a male-dominated industry, but the dynamic is changing. I find that women are increasingly well represented in the product marketing and customer satisfaction arena, for example, and that we will see more progress in general.
What do you expect from an airline when you fly?
Reliability, on-time performance, safety, good information exchange. An airline needs to be accessible and responsive. Self-service helps me to feel more secure and I think that’s increasingly important, empowering passengers with the information they need at hand. And, of course, you must have a good onboard product, for a pleasant flying experience.
My tablet and noise-canceling headphones. And I like having Wi-Fi onboard.
Favorite in-flight film genre?
Drama. That’s true on the ground too.
What’s always in your carry-on?
A scarf which can double as a blanket – and my gadgets. Other than that, I like to travel light.