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Four days in Marrakech

Four days in Marrakech
From Lufthansa F to Vueling Y
April 2010

VY 7332
April 6, 2010
11:00a-11:25a Local Time
Exit Row 14CD

After a great 3 night stay in beautiful but still chilly Barcelona, Mrs. SFO and I are off to sun and warmth of Marrakech, glad to leave just before the invasion of drunken Arsenal fans. I'm always intrigued flying different airlines and this morning we're trying the Spanish discount carrier, Vueling. On line booking on user friendly vueling.com was very easy. Nice options are to upgrade to an exit row seat for 13€ and/or to block the middle seat for 30€. Base one way PP fare was 60€. Add another 20€ for two checked bag, 13€ each to upgrade to exit row aisles and it was still only 166€ for two.

Not being familiar with VY, BCN departures, and for that matter, non-priority check-in, I decided to arrive two hours before departure. The VY counter was as I had suspected, a sea of humanity... or essentially like a typical Saturday afternoon Costco. As we had plenty of time, I relaxed and people watched as we crept towards the head of our line.

And my personal favorite of the day...

Obviously jaded by too many years of premium travel, my princess had the best line of the day with "What lounge are we using today?" Thirty minutes later, we were checked in efficiently by our VY agent.

After a cursory and futile check to see if there might be any type of priority security lane (*A, OW or ST), we gave up and joined the masses. Fortunately, the process went a lot faster than the shoe-fetish TSA BS.

After security and passport control, we were in the boring and "Lounge-less" D concourse. To make me feel even worse today, our gate D-21 was right beside D-18 (no idea what happened to D-19 and D-20) and a beautiful SQ 77W about to board for SIN (via MXP). Ah well, only 5 more months until our SQ RTW.

Boarding was efficient and since there was no reason to board any sooner than necessary, we waited until the end. Pretty crappy Y seat (or maybe it's been so long) but at least the exit row had about 4" extra leg room and even then we're only talk E+ type legroom.

Today's BOB menu...

On board, young FAs handle food and beverage sales efficiently. My Wrap Amsterdam (ham and cheese) was bland but passable while the sliced apple pack was actually pretty tasty.

Mrs. SFO, obviously jaded by LH and Barcelona restaurants, took one bite and spit our her Chapata Sevilla. Uh-oh, this is going to be a long two hours. True to form, it started... first about the two women from "the back of the bus" would squatted in the other exit row 12EF catching up on the past 70 odd years, then about the "looks like a terrorist" type behind her, then the proximity to a particularly pungent "aversion to showers, deodorant and/or laundry" smelly duo. She was not mollified when I told her that I've sat beside some loud, stinky guys in F so "suck it up". That went over really well.

When I used the forward lav, I did notice the absence of a soap dispenser although there did seem to be a soap dispenser holder. Alas, perhaps one of the prior occupants may have decided to keep a souvenir. I guess that was more appealing or useful than the model Vueling 320...

In all, no better or worse than any domestic Y flight... perfectly adequate for the price and at the limit of my "maximum two hours in coach" patience. Although the fact that I thought fondly of WN started to scare me. If I ever fly VY again (apparently when I'm single), I might opt for row 1 and block the middle. Seems to be adequate although not overly generous legroom to the bulkhead.

Mrs. SFO's spirits rose considerably and I was (temporarily) redeemed when a uniformed La Mamounia chauffer greeted us as we exited customs and led us to our waiting Jaguar Daimler. Now I just have to build up the courage to tell her that we're on RAM/Atlas Blue back to BCN this weekend.

We arranged a guide thru La Mamounia's concierge desk.  Highlights of your two days of touring Marrkech.

For our final two nights, we ventured south of Marrakesh to Berber country and the Atlas Mountains... to Richard Branson's eclectic Kasbah Tamadot.

The Kasbah Tamadot.


Heading off to our luxurious tent.

Next day

Time to begin the long trek home.

VY 7333
April 11, 2010
12:05p-4:20p Local Time
Seats 1DF

Surprise, surprise. Five days later and we're back on Vueling, but this time older and wiser.

After a cheaptix email last night alerted me that our RAM-Atlas Blue flight was delayed six hours (to now supposedly arrive BCN @ 2h00 Monday AM ), I decided that the 12h05 VY departure looked pretty good. Again, vueling.com was a breeze, and this time I sprung for the extra 30€ for 1DF, the bulkhead with blocked middle seat. Or so I thought.

Much more attractive views checking in today than in BCN...

Finally our turn, and for whatever reason, the contract check-in agent processed us and handed me our BPs, with 24EF. Right.
SFO: "Qu'est-ce que c'est, 24EF? J'ai payée pour 1DF."
VY Agent: "Un instant, monsieur. Ce n'est pas dans votre reservation. Mais, c'est toujours disponible. Et voila, monsieur."

After converting our Dirhams to Euros, security and passport control, we headed for the departure area. I immediately saw a "Salles VIP" sign and instinctively headed in that direction, Mrs. SFO in tow, to test out one of my elite cards. There are two VIP lounges in T1, presumably one for Royal Air Maroc, although Eva Longoria seemed to be blocking most of the entrance with signage.

The other lounge looked like a contract lounge that airlines rent by the hour. Late morning today, it was the Iberia Lounge, presumably since our flight was an IB codeshare and IB had their own metal RAK-MAD an hour later.

My AA EXP card got us access, although the agent seemed uncertain as he had me write my name and EXP info on a scrap piece of paper. The lounge was smallish with seating for maybe 30 but two new 24" i-Macs with internet access. A small tray of assorted sandwiches and pastries was on the counter (although the trays were completely wrapped) together with Tea (with glasses) and Orange Juice (no glasses apparent anywhere). There was a very limited and lame selection of liquor displayed behind the counter and in the refrigeration units behind the counter. Later during our visit, a more senior agent came over to ask me to show him my card. One look at my EXP card and he seemed quite satisfied. "Merci, monsieur".

Near the VIP lounges, The very attractive Camel Smoking Lounge, complete with fan system. Couldn't smell any smoke as I walked by. Somehow, I doubt you would see this in any US airport.

"Immediate boarding" was announced at T-25. We strolled to the gate for "immediate boarding", which in RAK means standing in the stairwell waiting for the inbound pax to deplane.

As soon as the inbound pax had left the plane, the fuel truck drove up right beside the mobile staircase, prompting me to quip "this ought to be interesting to see if we board right next to the fuel truck". Sure enough, we boarded right next to the fuel truck, Jet-A fumes and all. Clearly, we're not in Kansas, Dorothy.

Seats 1DF or 1AC are the seats to reserve on VY. Reasonable legroom, an open middle and no one reclining into you. Even Mrs. SFO agreed, adding that 1DF was much better than "my" exit row choice on our earlier VY flight.

Today's BOB snack purchase...

Once again, the flight was smooth, on time and we were treating to a great view of Barcelona on our approach. In summary, VY is an excellent short-haul experience and I would not hesitate to fly them again.