Trip Report: Sala VIP Joan Olivert Lounge at VLC, Ryanair Boeing 737-800 VLC-BGY
The last time I reviewed the shared lounge in Valencia airport, Sala VIP Joan Olivert in summer 2018, I noted that the lounge had been renovated and the catering had improved a lot, from packaged sandwiches stuck in a refrigerator in previous years, to individual portions of hot food served on china last year.
I had a few minutes to stop by the lounge before my 6:25am flight - thankfully the lounge opens at 5am. I was flying Ryanair, rather than a Star Alliance carrier where I would get access through Gold status, but I still could enter through Priority Pass. I always like to fill up my water bottle with water before flying, and this lounge has plastic water bottles for those who don’t carry their own.
So how was breakfast? I was expecting an egg and potato Spanish tortilla, because that’s what was out on the buffet last year. But on this visit, it was a huge selection of white bread sandwiches packaged in plastic triangles. The selection included jamón and cheese, chorizo and cheese, and tuna salad. They were beautifully displayed on the new buffet, but kind of an odd assortment for breakfast. Could it be that after last year’s catering upgrade, the food has been downgraded to pre-packaged food again?
The other buffet was empty, but the counter behind it had a Nespresso machine with a variety of coffees, and an assortment of sweet pastries like donut holes, donuts (chocolate, glazed), and croissants. Then there were fridges full of different drinks, milk, and yogurts.
I went for a chorizo and cheese sandwich. Toasting it in a toaster improved it a bit (not sure if one is really allowed to put anything besides strictly bread in the toaster, though), as did adding on a package of grated tomato. The sandwich was still a bit dry, though, and the mono-layer of chorizo and mono-layer of cheese didn’t provide much flavor. I did indulge in a chocolate-covered donut hole.
Then it was time to board the Ryanair flight from VLC to BGY (Milan-Bergamo). When we arrived at the gate, the priority line - with a winding tensabarrier wrapping around multiple times - was empty. Wow! We were going to be one of the first on board!
But then I realized that actually just about every passenger who bought Priority boarding was already down the stairs waiting to board, so we were actually the last of the Priority passengers to board.
Now Ryanair bundles Priority boarding with bringing on a cabin-sized rollaboard. So if you don’t buy Priority boarding, you can only board with one personal item - and must pay to check in anything larger. I know a lot of people complained about this, but I actually like this system. You pay for Priority, you board earlier, and your bags travel with you, guaranteed. On Vueling, for example, you don’t pay extra to bring both a rollaboard cabin baggage plus a personal item, but if you are in the latter half of the queue to board, they’ll likely check-in your rollaboard (for free). So you’d better start lining up 50 minutes or earlier ahead of time to ensure space for your luggage. I prefer the assurance of Ryanair’s system - especially since Priority boarding + 2 cabin bags only cost 8€ on this flight.
Ryanair sells up to 50% of the plane’s capacity as Priority, which means that if Priority is sold out, and you have anything larger than a personal item, you have to pay to check in. Because we were one of the last to board out of the Priority group, my suitcase wasn’t directly over me. But the kind flight attendant had me sit down in my row, while he carried my suitcase himself to a spot where there was room, and told me where to find it when I deplaned.
Another thing that other people complain about, but I actually kind of like, is that the seats don’t recline. There’s no worries with people intruding into your space. The only thing is that Ryanair also decided to remove seat back pockets, putting the safety card on the back of the seat itself. This means there is absolutely no storage, and on this flight, the girl in front of me dropped two phones onto the floor! I’m sure it was because she decided to hold them in her hand, since there was nowhere to stash them.
Overall though, I quite like Ryanair’s system. You pay for what you want, and you get what you pay for. Simple as that. Priority boarding, guaranteed overhead bin space, plus being able to use the departure lounge thanks to Priority Pass - I really wasn’t left wanting compared to flying a “full-service” airline, especially Iberia, where assigned seating costs much more than Ryanair’s prices, and you don’t even get complimentary water on board.