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TravelHow to get a Vueling TimeFlex refund

How to get a Vueling TimeFlex refund

Europe has a wide variety of low-cost airlines that offer service on unique routes and fares that are significantly lower than full-service, legacy airlines. A few, such as Vueling, are even bookable through major airline loyalty programs, so you can redeem transferable points for flights on them. But, as TPG’s senior points and miles writer Katie Genter learned this spring, Vueling can be difficult to deal with if anything goes wrong during your trip.

Here’s what happened on a recent Vueling award flight Katie booked through Iberia, and how TPG’s on-call ombudsman, Michelle Couch-Friedman, got a positive resolution for her.

Booking a Vueling award flight through Iberia

After a work trip to New York City, Katie was set to fly to Milan and land on March 8 at 8:10 a.m. But after checking all the places she could use her Ikon ski pass in Europe, she decided to book an additional flight to Barcelona later that day. On Jan. 14, she redeemed 4,500 Iberia Avios plus $37.80 in taxes and fees to book a nonstop Vueling flight from Milan to Barcelona for March 8 at 2 p.m.

Katie usually prefers to include an overnight stay between different flight itineraries, but she figured having almost six hours between her two flights would be long enough. Plus, her Iberia award for Vueling included one carry-on bag, one checked bag and unlimited flight changes via Vueling’s TimeFlex perk.


So, she assumed she’d still be covered even if her transatlantic flight was significantly delayed.

Related: Airlines you can book using Avios: How to maximize your points

A flight diversion to Canada

As Katie’s American Airlines flight left New York around 6:15 p.m. on March 7, she was annoyed to hear she’d be landing in Milan more than 90 minutes ahead of schedule since that meant less time to sleep on board. She wasn’t looking forward to the estimated 6:30 a.m. arrival in Milan, but at least she’d have plenty of time to recheck her luggage before her Vueling flight.

However, once she was soundly asleep, she heard the dreaded announcement asking passengers with medical training to please ring their call button. Knowing she wouldn’t be of help, she went back to sleep, but the announcements continued, with multiple requests for passengers to ring their call button if they had specific medicines in their carry-on bags. The flight was well on its way at this point, but that didn’t matter; it was announced the flight would divert to Canada due to the medical needs of a passenger.


The flight landed in Goose Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador, at 1:30 a.m. local time, and several passengers deplaned. Everyone else, Katie included, then sat on the tarmac for more than two hours.

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While on the ground in Goose Bay and not knowing when her flight would get back underway, Katie tried to change her Vueling reservation to any of several later flights through the Vueling app. However, the app only sent her to a page saying, “Sorry, you cannot perform the operation at this time. Please try again later.”


Shortly before her flight prepared to resume and depart Goose Bay at 3:46 a.m. local time, she sent a message to her husband (who was asleep in Budapest at the time) to keep trying to change her flight through the Vueling app once he woke up. He had no better luck than she did through the app. They both called Vueling, but neither of them could reach a human agent. He also called Iberia, but the carrier said it couldn’t change the award ticket.

By the time the American Airlines flight finally reached the gate in Milan just before 3 p.m. local time, Katie’s Vueling flight — which departed around 2 p.m., as scheduled — was long gone. So, she collected her checked bag, entered the European Union and headed to the Vueling check-in desk.

The sole agent in the Vueling check-in area said she couldn’t do anything except check in passengers and their luggage. She directed Katie to a ticket sales office, where the agent said she couldn’t do anything except sell her a new ticket. When Katie asked how much a new ticket would be, she — incorrectly — said every airline was sold out from Milan to Barcelona for the rest of the day.

Katie found a seat to regroup and research her options. She had used a Hyatt Category 1-7 free night certificate for her overnight stay in Barcelona, booked a transfer from Barcelona to Andorra the next day and paid for an Airbnb in Andorra. So, Katie wanted to get to Barcelona that evening or early the next morning, even if it meant booking a new flight.

A quick search on Point.me showed that there weren’t any award flights at reasonable rates that would work. However, a search on Google Flights showed the 5:20 p.m. Vueling flight from Milan to Barcelona was still on sale even though it would depart in about 90 minutes.

Seeing this flight as her best option and not knowing exactly how close to departure Vueling would continue selling the flight, she got her Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card and paid 197.99 euros ($216.82 on that date) for the last-minute flight and was on her way, even though she knew she would need to try to recoup her money later if possible.

Missing a connection

When Michelle heard about Katie’s plight, she knew something had gone wrong at Vueling. After all, Katie is a digital nomad and is well versed in what to do when an airline cancels, delays or diverts your flight. But Michelle wasn’t sure what had happened, so she started digging around.

In general, an airline should automatically, and without charge, move you to the next available flight if you miss (or are about to miss) your connection on a multileg journey through no fault of your own — that is, as long as you purchased your ticket as one single, connected itinerary on the same airline or on multiple carriers that have an interline agreement.

Passengers flying on this type of itinerary will have just one ticket number with a single record locator. If a flight delay or cancellation causes a missed connection along the way, the traveler will typically be rerouted at no additional cost.


Travelers who book separate flight reservations on a multileg itinerary don’t enjoy that same protection. Should some disruption on one leg of their journey prevent the passenger from making a connection, the subsequent airline on their itinerary has no obligation to move them free of charge to another flight. As a result, passengers in this scenario are often hit with unexpected fees to continue to their destination.

Unfortunately for Katie, she was flying on two separate itineraries when her transatlantic flight was diverted to Canada. As her aircraft sat for hours on the ground in Canada before finally resuming its flight to Italy, she became increasingly sure she’d miss her connection in Italy. But she’d made a booking decision months earlier that should have insulated her from potential risks.

What is TimeFlex on Vueling?

There was good and bad news for Katie when she discovered that her nonstop flight from New York to Milan was being diverted. Although she was connecting on two separate tickets through Milan on her way to Barcelona, she had wisely booked a TimeFlex flight on Vueling.

Vueling’s TimeFlex fares allow passengers to change their flights without penalty, even on the day of the originally scheduled trip. TimeFlex only applies to domestic flights within Spain for Vueling flights booked after Jan. 30, 2024 — travelers should now book Fly Grande for the same unlimited flight change flexibility on international flights — but Katie booked her Vueling flight on Jan. 14 when TimeFlex was still offered for international flights.

Of course, there are some restrictions to Vueling’s TimeFlex fare:

  • Travelers can only change to a flight with availability.
  • Although there will be no surcharge for the switch, a fare difference may be owed if the new flight is more expensive than the original.
  • The flight change must be done through the Vueling app.

That last part of the TimeFlex requirements was the root of Katie’s problem. Unfortunately, the app appeared to have a technical glitch for much of March 8. She shared screenshots with Michelle of no fewer than 12 attempts to switch her Vueling flight to one later in the day through the Vueling app.


Each time, after following all the steps in what seemed like a simple process, Katie would get hit with a yellow error screen. Attempts to chat and call Vueling all proved fruitless. Even at the airport in Milan, Vueling agents could not assist her. The only answer was to pay a walk-up fare at the airport ticket counter to get to her destination.

Related: I woke up and booked the cheapest same-day flight out of the country — here’s what happened

Asking Vueling why this passenger was overcharged

Katie and her husband carefully documented their efforts to switch her flight through the app ahead of its departure. Unfortunately, when the app didn’t work as expected, they found it impossible to reach a real person at Vueling who could understand the problem and had the authority to override the system.

But she wanted to get to Barcelona. So, faced with no better option, she paid for a new Vueling ticket, boarded the flight and hoped to get a refund later. Even after landing and getting settled, though, she found it just as difficult to reach anyone at Vueling who could help.

After several weeks of no progress in her efforts to recoup the extra $217 from Vueling she’d spent on her new last-minute ticket, she wasn’t sure what else to do. After all, if you can’t reach anyone in customer service at a company, how can you solve the problem?


So, she sent her case to Michelle. Since Katie had booked her initial Vueling ticket through its partner airline, Iberia, Michelle figured there were two possible routes to retrieve Katie’s money: Talk to Iberia or talk to Vueling. Unfortunately, Michelle’s past experience with Vueling has been similar to Katie’s in that it has been hard to impossible to reach someone willing or able to help. So, Michelle hoped Iberia could nudge things along if Vueling remained silent.

Still, she emailed a contact at Vueling to get the ball rolling and was pleasantly surprised to receive a quick reply. After sending samples of Katie’s screenshots of the many frustrating errors she encountered using the Vueling app, Iberia’s executive team determined that she had been charged the walk-up fare in error. A Vueling spokesperson concluded:

“Hi Michelle,

We’ve been reviewing this case with our team, and we will proceed with the reimbursement.

Apologies for any inconvenience this may have caused.”

Unfortunately, Vueling’s good news and apology did not explain what went wrong or why it took two months — and an ombudsman’s intervention — to correct this problem. That leaves us to assume this lack of customer service may be business as usual at this airline. So, travelers, take note.

Vueling opted to reimburse Katie via wire transfer. On May 11, Katie sent her bank details via an online chatbot on Vueling’s website. She saw the wire transfer of $211.23 — about $5 less than the charge that hit her card back in March — reach her bank account May 16. However, her bank also charged a $15 wire transfer fee, leaving her about $20 short of being whole.

Preventing flight cancellation issues

Of course, flight delays, cancellations and even diversions are a reality of travel. And the more you fly, the more likely you’ll encounter a flight disruption. But there are ways to minimize the impact one will have on your wallet and psyche.

Book all your flights in 1 reservation

When at all possible, book your itinerary in a way in which all legs of your flight are connected on a single reservation. While booking a series of self-connecting flights can sometimes prove cheaper, you’re giving up the peace of mind that you’ll be protected should a disruption happen.

Travelers should be especially mindful when using online booking agents to book multileg trips. Online travel agencies like Expedia and Orbitz often get the lowest rate for their customers by building an itinerary with a series of one-way, self-connecting flights. The single reservation codes that passengers receive from these sites give the appearance of one interconnected itinerary. However, the individual legs are frequently not connected, and the traveler can find out in the most unpleasant way when a delay in one segment leads to a missed connection on the next segment with no recourse for rebooking.


Purchase travel insurance

There are many reasons why it’s a good idea to make sure you have a travel insurance policy covering you when heading off on an international trip. In fact, the more comprehensive policies have 24-hour hotlines that you can call for help in real time. So, if you need assistance switching a flight or finding a hotel for an unexpected diversion, that travel insurance policy can save the day.

You can use a site like InsureMyTrip to compare policies based on your personal details. Remember, any policy you purchase will come with a look-over period of 10 to 14 days, depending on the company. Use that time to thoroughly read through the entire document to ensure you’ve purchased the protection you want and need.

Consider using a travel agent

For more complicated itineraries, consider using a travel agent to book your journey. Remember, a professional travel adviser can give you expert guidance before your trip and will also be your advocate when things go wrong. During an extended flight delay, a professional agent can reach people you can’t. They can work on fixing the problem while you can relax and focus on other things.


Document everything and escalate your complaint

If you’re attempting the do-it-yourself approach, document everything as Katie did. Take screenshots, write down the names of employees and take notes — anything that illustrates the problem and supports the resolution you’re hoping to receive. When the dust settles and you attempt to escalate your complaint to the executive level, you’ll need all that evidence to prove your case.

If you’re having trouble finding someone to help you, Michelle’s advocacy organization, Consumer Rescue, can help. It provides consumers with an executive customer service contact finder free of charge. You just tell Consumer Rescue the company’s name, and it can give you the name and contact information of a reliable person who can help you.

Ask TPG for help

Don’t forget, you always have one more route to a resolution to try if you’re struggling to fix a consumer problem with an airline, cruise line, credit card, hotel or car rental agency. You can send your request for assistance to [email protected] for help.


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