Horrendous Customer Service
I had originally booked a flight from New York JFK to London Heathrow for the 10th of April (last week). A couple days before the flight, a close family friend passed away. I had to postpone my departure to attend the funeral. So, on Thursday the 9th, I spoke with one of your service representatives (who did not provide me his name, but sounded to be in a South Asian call center). I asked for the next available date of comparable fare. This was apparently too confusing for him, so I had to give him a specific date. He did some typing and responded with "I'm sorry sir, but there are no available flights that day. Would you like me to search another date?" I took a deep breath to calmly prepare for what I realized was going to be a very painful phone call.
Several minutes later, we had found that the next available flight would be about two weeks later (approaching my return date). I realized that, considering the $200 change fee, I might be better off just booking a one-way flight with another airline. The representative said, "Sir, I can make this an 'open ticket' and you can call back once you've decided on the date." "Great!" I thought. "Thanks, I'll do that."
Today, the 13th of April at 3:40 PM EST, I called back in an attempt to finalize arrangements. I spoke with a woman named "Donna", but from the quality of the connection and her accent, I figured that I was again connected with a call center and her name probably wasn't Donna anyway. I gave her my booking reference and quickly brought her up to speed. She informed me that there was no note or anything to indicate that I had an "open ticket" and, in fact, I had been listed as a no-show for my flight. Understanding that the first representative had apparently taken no action during our call, and was instead probably organizing his post-its or photos of his family, I sighed and figured we'd press on and see what could be done. She said that I could re-book the outbound flight as part of the same trip but that in addition to the change fee, I would likely have to pay an additional no-show fee. I gave her some dates to search and she kindly put me on hold... for about 10 minutes. When she returned, she let me know that in addition to the $200 change fee, there would be a $350 no-show fee (note: my original round-trip fare was about $460). Additionally, the difference in fare would be about $980. SO, to re-book this flight, I would have to pay over $1500. The sheer stupidity hurt my brain.
I quickly did a web search and found one-way flights for $500-600. I politely explained to her that $1500 made absolutely no sense whatsoever and I would really have no rational choice but to fly one-way with another airline. Though, as I'm writing this, I am thinking that I better call back to make sure no one has canceled my return ticket and pocketed my money. I have no confidence in the Virgin customer service, so I'm going to have to get on that call now and suffer a bit more.
I'd like to inject an important side-note to this experience, while I'm on hold. The Virgin Atlantic website (www.virgin-atlantic.com) is all but useless. You can't actually manage your booking. "Manage Your Flights" really only means "online check-in". When I first logged in her, there were a list of account actions, including "change your dates", but the actions didn't link anywhere. There was a note next to it, as a question mark image, that also did not click, but I was able to decipher that holding my cursor over it would reveal other useless information. I tried clicking a "customer service" link, which ultimately timed out and loaded no page. I did some additional searching for fares and promotional fares which gave me some results but also the note "Are your dates flexible? We found a cheaper fare for $xxx". When I clicked the related link, it just took me back to the original promotional fares / search page. Completely and utterly useless. Overall I'd say this website is so horribly behind all of the competition that there is no real used to even having attempting to use it.
So, I'm back on hold now after speaking to a competent representative named [snip](?). I have just learned that when a traveler is a "no-show" for their departure flight, the whole booking gets canceled. This means that I no longer have a return flight. So, had I booked another one-way flight, I would be in quite a bit of trouble! I explained the situation, and the primary problems are that the original agent did not make ANY note on the account, and I failed to get his name (which I really regret, but I had other things on my mind [ie:the upcoming funeral arrangements, schedules]) at the time. So, they could try to review calls from the date/time I provide them, but without a name, it's quite hard. I understand this. [snip] also understood that the fees and costs associated with making changes would be 3 times the cost of just booking a new trip through the Virgin-Atlantic website. Why didn't the last representative understand that basic reality of mathematics? So, the minutes are ticking by. We shall see the result. In the meantime, I'm searching flights with competitors. After all, if I have to re-book, I think Virgin has already gotten quite enough of my money, without having to render any service in return.
So, I got off hold. There's nothing they can do for me. There are so many ways in which they could have been accommodating and made some more money off me, but alas, they're not equipped with the knowledge to actually generate revenue for their business. I've just booked a new flight with another airline. I don't think I'll be booking with Virgin again anytime soon. Now I'm exhausted and in need of a drink.