VENTURA, CALIFORNIA -- Re: the Virgin America “gotcha” game…. I am a vice president of a company and a seasoned “road warrior” with considerable experience flying with some of the best airlines in the world (and a few of the worst). I am also fortunate enough to be one of those “favored fliers” coveted by most airlines, as I usually purchase my first class seat/s, rather than upgrade, etc.
A fan of Virgin Atlantic for many years, I had been eager to fly the new Virgin America. In October 2007 I purchased (2) two First Class seats to fly from LA to New York for New Year's. Due to unfortunate circumstances, I was unable to make the trip. As a courtesy and matter of habit, I phoned into Virgin America to notify the airline that I would not be making the trip. I was informed that an email would be sent to follow the call. To my knowledge, I never received this email, but thought nothing of it at the time.
A couple of weeks ago, I contacted Virgin America to make a new reservation for two, in First Class (considerably more expensive now). I gave the confirmation number of my original flight to use towards the new tickets, only to be told that there was NO credit on file for this former reservation. Inquiring further into this mystery… I was told that no record was found on their side that this reservation had been cancelled prior to departure. I conveyed that I had in fact done so, but still didn't understand how this was relevant.
Alas, I was told further that if either I had not cancelled the reservation prior to departure (or no record was found of such) that the entire fare amount was FORFEITED! I was told that this forfeiture information was in their “Fare Rules”, and that there was nothing else that could be offered other than crediting me “1/2 of the total fare or the Guest Services agent would “get in trouble.”
I must confess that I am not one to read the fine print when purchasing a full fare First Class ticket/s. No airline known to me in the USA has such an absurd policy which penalizes passengers with a 100% loss (or anything close) of the fare/money spent. It is certainly way out of the norm with other US airline policies. At most, one can usually expect a nominal change fee of some amount, and even that is usually limited to restricted economy tickets, and other very restricted fares.
I had scanned originally, and have since reread, the email confirmation I received from Virgin America and NO mention is made of this policy under “Rules and Restrictions.” (I have since been able to find this policy/practice only in the “fine print” of their website.) One can only imagine that I'm not the first to be snagged into this trap thus far. To be told that I've lost $2400.00 because no record (conveniently) was found of a reservation cancellation, that I didn't even know I was supposed to have made… (but in fact actually had in this case).
There is no question in my mind that this weighty penalty is a deceptive loophole buried in the fine print of your fare rules. One could certainly deduce that Virgin America has intentionally done so to the peril of unsuspecting customers, who must be expected to swallow it and move on. Virgin America must also further anticipate that they will not see these customers again as a result, and that this loss of repeat customers is acceptable.
I feel robbed quite frankly, and I cannot compare this experience with any other short of literally being robbed. It is certainly a story worth telling to others considering flying Virgin America. I did direct my complaint to the Vice President per the Customer Care Department's recommendation, in writing. No response or resolution has been offered to date!
I have sent a complaint letter before and stated that I had a very bad outgoing flight experience and was regretting the flight back as you can read in this previous letter which was sent to you Virgin Atlantic on 5/31/2011.
(I and my two kids flew Virgin Atlantic from LAX to Amman Jordan connecting in London with BMI. The flight was on time, that's the only positive thing I can say about this flight. The entertainment, what entertainment? There was no service on the TV screen the whole flight to London. The food service was awful, and the food portions were very small. Only two food serving on the whole [11 HR] flight, and when calling the flight attendants were very rude. In other words very poor service. I still have to fly back for the return flight. I'm really concerned about that flight. I will never fly or recommend Virgin Atlantic Airline to anybody!!!)
On the return flight back I called Virgin Atlantic airlines to confirm the flight 3 days before the flight date. They told me, "OK you're confirmed." Great so far so good until I went to check in at the airport ticketing desk, where they told me that I don't have a ticket - that my ticket was canceled. That's when I called my husband in California and then he called Virgin Atlantic airlines to find out what is the problem. He was told at the first call that there was a flight change, that somebody had called and changed the flight number and that in order to reissue and release the ticket he had to pay $600.00 first.
He told them that, "Neither me or my wife had called or authorized or did any change on that flight at all at anytime." They put him on hold for about 15 to 20 minutes to find out what had happened to cause this. After about 15-20 minutes they came back saying that the person that did the change was our travel agent. At that time he called the travel agent while Virgin Atlantic was still on the line but he had to leave a message because it was after hours here in California.
Because of the flight time and that my flight was about take off in approximately one hour his hands were tied and had to pay the $600.00 in order for me to catch my flight so my kids can get to school the following Monday which I told the ticketing desk and of course they did not care and did nothing to help. After he paid 600.00 they said that to give them about 5 minutes for them to process.
After about 5 minutes they did not reissue the ticket my husband called Virgin again, they re-checked the ticket validation and reason for the hold or cancellation of the ticket again and said that the credit card number was not correct and they need a different card number which he gave them another card number so that I can make my flight. After it was processed and approved and my ticket was issued he asked them again why the extra charge.
After putting on hold for another 20 minutes they came back and gave him different reason for the flight number change and the reason for the extra charge. This time they said the reason is that BMI airlines had changed the flight number only and that even though Virgin Atlantic charged HIS Card for the extra charge they told him, "You have to take it up with BMI airlines." This flight was the worst airline experience I have ever encountered from departing to the amazing heartless return flight. This would be the last time I travel with or recommend Virgin Atlantic to anybody I know and I will email copy to customer relations and post it online reviews.
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 **, 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 ** 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 here, 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 $**." 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 **. 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. ** 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.
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS -- Our flight was from Chicago O'Hare to London Heathrow, then we took a connection flight with a different airline, and then eventually, back from Heathrow airport back to O'Hare. On the way to London the flight was wonderful. Nice crew, great TV service where you can listen to music, watch TV shows, watch movies, or play games on your own time as in you don't have to wait for the next showing, and you can pause and fast forward as if it was a DVD. They also had a wide selection of new movies and classics for all ages, and the whole system was pretty high tech.
The food quantity was pretty good but it wasn't that good. Just because you are a vegetarian doesn't mean you just eat vegetables all the time. But no airlines have this concept, so I won't blame Virgin Atlantic for it. The reception on the TV was good, the seats were comfortable, and they give you a warm comfortable blanket as well as a toiletries kit.
However on the way back from Heathrow to O'Hare, there were a number of difficulties. When we were shopping for perfume at the airport, we saw the sign that said the flight was closing, so we rushed to the gate hoping we wouldn't miss the flight. Then on the plane, the seat was dirty. Then we had to wait for an hour for them to pass out headphones and turn on the TV, and when they did turn on the TV it was only commercials for another half an hour. The headphones were broken, and the pads were not clean. My TV had horrible reception, so I switched seats - the remote for the new seat had a number of difficulties.
And they were giving instructions on how to operate the entertainment system, but when you actually got to use it it was a completely different system and you could not watch the movies on your time, or pause or fast forward them. And there wasn't a good selection. Only 15 and all R rated movies. The games were horrible, and there was only one channel for kids that didn't even work. Only 5 music channels, none of which were American.
The food was absolutely horrible, and they gave us a sandwich as a snack about an hour before landing. They had 2 vegetarian options. One was mainly lettuce and repulsive yellow tomatoes in a tortilla. The other was a 'cheddar cheese and sweet pickle' sandwich. Even if it actually was a cheddar and pickle sandwich it would have been a horrible combination. But it was only 17% mild cheddar cheese, so it tasted like butter, and the pickles were brown and they weren't even pickles. In the ingredients it said it was mainly tomatoes and carrots. At least the check-in people were very friendly and helpful.
I think if they just try to live up to their expectations it would be a much better flight. And also when we were buying something from the plane catalog they said that they didn't accept change so we had to give them exact money and we had to go threw out whole suitcase to find the right amount. And we had to wait half an hour for them to find the item in their stock because they couldn't find it. If you have a choice, don't choose Virgin. Although they might be contemporary, it's not worth it.
SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA -- I felt compelled to write this letter after the thirtieth birthday trip my partner and I planned was foiled by the apathetic attitudes we experienced when dealing with Virgin America Airlines. Initially we booked this flight because we were told this smaller trendy airline was fun and slightly more personable than the typical "box them up and shove them through" airlines most of us experience when we fly today. Initially we had some problems booking through the airlines web page so I called them directly and had a representative their book our trip.
The day before our departure arrived and everything was set to get off the ground when we hoped it would. However things quickly took a turn for the worse after we realized they had made a scheduling mistake with our flight. Aware of $40.00 rescheduling fee I hastily called the Virgin America's customer service hotline to resolve the issue.
What ensued can only be described as the most painfully time consuming and frustrating experience I have ever had when dealing with an airline. Not only did Virgin America charge me the $40.00 rescheduling fee outlined on their webpage but they also added the difference in prices between the flights. A fee of $272.00 was accessed by the airline to change our departure from San Diego to San Francisco and an additional charge of $272.00 for our return flight as well. The customer services representatives were blatantly indifferent to our situation and staunchly insisted the $544.00 total fee difference was "my only option."
I was disturbed that the representatives I dealt with (three separate individuals) seemed to deliberately and maliciously leave me on hold for fifteen minute increments for nearly two hours. I felt as if each time they picked up the phone they were only doing so to ensure they were operating within company consumer holding protocol (assuming of course they even have such policies). At no point did they offer me options or give me professional feedback regarding the status of the issue while I was holding.
I never felt as though they were operating to assist me with my problem in any way. The representatives I dealt with were unbelievably disrespectful to me as a customer and highly unprofessional. The changes I did make were painfully time consuming, stressful and costly to our vacation budget. When all was said and done I ended up with the exact same flights I had originally paid for. However a $125.00 charge was accessed on my credit card for good measure due to my changes and their time. Mind you the changes I initially tried to make were canceled and I reverted to my initial flight within an excruciatingly long two hour period.
The bargain we thought we were getting to fly on this airline was not at all worth it. Not only did I end up paying $323.00 for the exact same flight that I originally booked for a cost of $198.00 but my total losses due to other cancellations exceeded $500.00. I would highly recommend that all my friends, family members, other consumers not wanting to suffer the same fate consider flying with another more service driven airline. Our best experiences to date have been with Southwest Airlines. Unimpressed San Diego.
My elderly parents visited me from the UK and I tried to use the online check in to ensure they got seats together for their overnight return flight. The system does not allow you to check-in more than 24 hours ahead of the flight departure but as soon as the clock passed the 24 hour mark I logged on but got an error message saying the system was unavailable. After several more attempts, I called by phone and after 20 minutes or more on hold was told there was a problem with the system and to try again later. I tried again and again over the following 2½ hours without success so I called again but gave up after 30 or more minutes on hold.
I hung up and called again for another 35 minutes on hold before someone assured me they could help and transferred me back into the menu system where I managed to navigate my way to a hang up. Calling back it only took 20 minutes to get an answer out of New Delhi or wherever. The eastern gentlemen informed me that all online seats were already allocated so the only remedy would be to check in 3 hours ahead of the flight instead on 1½ hours. I asked how the online check in seats could be taken if the system had been down. Not surprisingly, he couldn't provide an answer.
Unfortunately, instead of asking to speak to a supervisor, I ended the phone call (politely). It was then I decided that I was unsatisfied enough that I wanted to escalate the problem. Two calls and 1¾ hours later, I finally talked to someone who refused to put me through to a supervisor but couldn't do anything about the situation except notify the airport departure desk about the issue - to what end remains to be seen. All that money and they can't provide a consistent online check in system or reasonable customer service!
My daughter flew on Virgin America on May 29th as unaccompanied minors and were flying to New York to connect to Emirates International flight EK204 to Dubai. Upon check in the agent forgot to give her back her passport and ** flew to New York with Virgin America by the time it was recovered. On arrival to New York she did not have her passport to board the international flight. Furthermore, Virgin America left one bag in San Francisco. Emirates also insisted that there was no way for them to transport the bag to Dubai without a passenger.
When I called Baggage claim 650 821-8485 I spoke with ** who seemed caring but needed instructions from someone named **. ** instructed ** to let me know there was absolutely nothing they could do and I needed to call guest care on Tuesday June 1st. I spoke to ** who was the most rudest person I have ever spoken to. She basically told me to shut the ** off and she did not give a d**n about my child and it is not her responsibility because she was not the agent and she had nothing to do with the delayed bag.
** also said that Virgin America does not take responsibility for anything lost or missing. She insisted that bags can be delivered at anytime as long as they are delivered. I asked if they could bring back the children to California, but she ignored that question. I asked if Virgin would take responsibility for the missing bag and she said no because she was not handling the bag. She then banged the phone on me.
Meanwhile, I have an 11 yr old traveling unaccompanied stuck in New York because of their mistake. First I had to change the connecting flight because of the missing passport and missing luggage. The change was $1,400 and the cost to fly to New York with United Airlines to hand over the passport the agent did not hand over when checking in.
CRAWLEY, UK -- My flight was cancelled because of the volcanic ash situation. At this point I have no grievance as the decision not to fly is for all our own well being. The flights we were allocated we decided to give up for another more desperate family than ourselves, since we have our own house in Orlando. The Virgin Atlantic representative said, "Thank you very much, no one else has offered to give up their seats." No big deal. We then went to check in 10 days later, the first available date they could re-allocate seats for us. The lady at check-in at Downtown Disney made us weigh our bags and sure enough they were overweight. We had the choice of paying $50 per case or taking stuff out.
I mentioned that we had given up our seats and could she do us the courtesy of allowing our bags. At the end of the day, if the weight restriction was for safety or some kind of baggage handlers' policy, I'd understand. However it is a monetary issue, they want more of it from me! That stinks.
Having refused to pay the $50 extra and having had to empty some of our belongings, we now have to travel with them as hand luggage. That's clever, Virgin! After we left the weighing station and stood at the check in desk, the representative then came over to us and asked us to come back to the weighing station. She said "You can't put stuff in your case after it's been weighed." I told her that I hadn't, but she still made me drag it across the forecourt, weigh it and then then take it back again. "Your apology is accepted," I told her. You've now lost us as customers and the rest of our friends and family, who all fly with you at least twice a year.
UK -- How to start on this?? OK, let's say when I finished my flight from hell and got to hotel in St. Lucia (Royal-Rex resort) to find the Virgin crew later that day getting pissed around the pool for two days did not make me any more in love with Branson and his staff! From Gatwick on a 747-400 that must be on the old girls last legs made me to say the least unimpressed. The plane's systems are so outdated that other airlines I usually fly on over to Asia must be thinking Virgin are taking the total 'mickey mouse' on investment and customer care.
The seat entertainment system was broken on 2 of our 5 seats. I paid £500 each for those buckets. The seat recliner on one (1) moved from 'interrogation position' to forward only and tried to break my child's 6 year old back. The staff were so arrogant and indifferent to the customers in coach that I felt we were a sub species of human that did not deserve even basic interaction and care.
Mr. Branson your adverts on 25 years are such a lie (unless your on your uppers). Actually I am so fed up with Virgin I am going to start blogging some more sites now. Your staff in St Lucia on the Thursday 30th July (we arrived on the 19th flight) was a total joke on your image. Buying in booze to a 4 star hotel and then sitting round a family pool for 4 hours getting pissed and talking loudly was not what I as a Virgin holiday customer wanted to see or hear. I paid over £8000 pounds for a Virgin holiday of relaxation and calm. I got nothing of the sort and my next blog will be on the hotel your company offers. In TOTAL need of refurbishment and modernization as your planes.
We had a flight for 6:20 pm. Due to a multitude of factors, we were unable to arrive until 6:15. They were already pushing back so we missed the flight. It's not like they didn't know we were coming; I was on the phone with the people at the counter from 6:00 to 6:10, updating them continuously of our progress and discussing things like leaving to-be-checked bags for the next flight. The counter is right next to the gate, security is in between, and nobody was in line at that time. Therefore we could have been on the plane by 6:20 if the door had still been open.
Anyway, they had 6:30 scheduled for a flight which normally takes 5:30, so I don't understand why they had to leave early. Virgin America has a cute No Show policy, which they state as follows: "If a Guest fails to show up prior to the specified check-in times described herein for a reserved Virgin America flight and fails to notify Virgin America prior to the flight's departure, Virgin America will cancel that flight reservation and all subsequent segments for continuing or return flights and the fare or Elevate points redeemed for all such reservations will be forfeited."
Now imagine that you paid for a hotel room for a week. You would expect to have the use of that room for the entire week, whether you slept there every night or not. Virgin America seems to think that their seats are somehow different. I think that withholding a prepaid service for no good reason is theft, pure and simple. Obviously what is driving this is that the airlines are pretending that their business is still regional, whereas we all know that business is global these days. This is called "protect my business model" because it's easier than competing.