first and last time flying Virgin Atlantic

Old Jul 17, 12, 6:20 pm
  #1  
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first and last time flying Virgin Atlantic

just completed a round trip YVR --> LHR. Worst flying experience ever. I Jknow I'm in the minority as I'm sure Virgin is a very good airline, but my personal experience was just plain awful. You know what they say about first impressions! Anyway...here's what I just posted to Virgin's customer service. I don't expect anything in return...I just want them to know that we were not impressed:

"What a disappointment flying Virgin Atlantic. This was my first and will be my last time flying with your airline. I am a frequent international business traveler with Premier 1K elite status on United Airlines, so I know a good product when I see it (and no...I'm not saying United has a good product...I'm just saying I fly often enough to recognize good service and experience from bad). Virgin definitely did not in any way provide the level of experience I would have expected from a supposed top-tier international carrier.

It all started with our outbound flight, Vancouver to London on June 28th. The plane was an obviously older A340. The interior was just very outdated and worn. The safety video sound was horrendous. You could barely make out what was being said. The video quality was also horrible (and not just the safety video). Many channels were simply unwatchable due to the static and lines across the screen. And then to learn that the movies were NOT on-demand? Not offering on-demand video choices is just plain unacceptable in this day and age, especially from a carrier of your caliber.

And then we land in London. Luggage nowhere to be seen. Turns out our luggage never even made it onto the flight, even with a 2+ hour connection in YVR. We landed at 1 PM in London on Friday, the 29th. We didn't receive our luggage until 9:30 PM Sunday night, the 1st of July. 56 hours later. When we were first notified at LHR that our luggage didn't make the flight, we were informed of the £50 / person allowance. When I finally received word that our luggage was located and would arrive on Sunday the 1st, I was told that we were NOT entitled to a second allowance of £50 / person because our luggage had been located and was in the process of being "delivered". This is absolutely contradictory to the information detailed on your website (http://www.virgin-atlantic.com/us/en...d-baggage.html). From your website: "If your bag still hasnít reached you 48 hours after you landed and reported it missing, a further $50 (or the equivalent of £50 in destinations outside the US) can be claimed when you return home. Just make sure you inform us and keep all of your receipts!" Our bags did not reach our hotel for 56 hours after landing and reporting it missing. Therefore per your own words, we should indeed be entitled to an additional £50 / person for all of our incidental charges as a direct result of our luggage being delayed. I therefore expect to be reimbursed up to £100 pounds / person due to the fact that "bag still hasnít reached you 48 hours after you landed and reported it missing".

Now for the return flight. I would like to make it CRYSTAL CLEAR that your website would NOT permit me to access our reservation online (I couldn't reserve seats, request special meals, check-in, etc). For whatever reason, a multi-segment, multi-carrier itinerary just doesn't play nicely with your website. I spoke to several individuals in your reservations department and finally got ONE of them to acknowledge that your website wouldn't support my itinerary and therefore any changes / seat assignments, etc would have to be done by calling in to your reservations center. During one of these calls, I had our seats assigned. I specifically chose certain seats for our family of four so that we would be sitting together, and I was NEVER informed that our seats would be given away if we didn't check-in 13 hours prior to scheduled departure. Upon arriving Heathrow (we were connecting from Edinburgh on British Midland) and checking in at the Virgin Atlantic transfer counter, we were told that our seats were given away as we didn't check in 24 hour in advance "like we were supposed to". Again, NO ONE ever told us we were required to do this in order to retain the seats that we had reserved months in advance. Secondly, your website wouldn't allow me to check-in online anyway! I have NEVER had this problem in the past with any other carrier, and I've flown MANY multi-segment, multi-airline itineraries in the past. Suffice it to say, we were NOT happy, but fortunately found a nice couple on-board that was willing to switch seats with us. Definitely un-needed stress. Furthermore, upon boarding the plane your "greeter" flight attendants were quite rude. We told them the scenario (needing to switch seats due to ours being given away), and one of them mocked me as I walked away (my wife witnessed him) when I made a mistake as to where our seats were. We honestly thought about getting off the plane and paying for a different flight home.

Inflight experience on the return flight to YVR was identical to the outbound flight to LHR (same old A340 perhaps?). The interior decor was old and worn. The audio on the safety presentation was inaudible. The video was grainy with lines. 5 or 6 of the video channels in flight couldn't even be viewed due to the ridiculously bad picture quality. Disney channel was completely un-viewable due to the picture quality. Not good when traveling with two young kids. Again....need to get with the times and upgrade to on-demand video. Food was decent (although we did order Kids meals, and some of the "kids" snacks being served were identical to what the adults got!). For example, our kids were provided cheese sandwich with onions (same as what we got). What kid likes onions on their cheese sandwich?!?!?!

Then the final straw....we land in Vancouver and go to retrieve our luggage. Sure enough, one of our bags didn't make the flight from Vancouver even with there being 2 hours between connections. In all my years of flying, I've only had one experience with an airline 'losing' my luggage, and it was for very legitimate reasons. So on both directions, VS loses our luggage.

Never in my life have I experienced these kinds of hassels and poor quality. Were I flying a "lesser" low-cost carrier, I wouldn't have been that surprised to receive the kind of treatment that we received. Never in my life though did I think our worst flying experience to-date would be with Virgin Atlantic (and we've flown to many destinations around the world)."
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Old Jul 18, 12, 4:42 am
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Crikey, that sounds like a real shocker, and particularly poor luck with the luggage going astray. I do feel that connections on other airlines is a bit of an achilles heel for VS.

It it's any consolation, I believe that there are only 2 A340-300's still flying out of LHR with the non-AVOD entertainment, and these will be retired in the next few months.

The 13 hour OLCI issue is something that VS should definitely publicise more clearly to avoid people falling foul. It is on the website, but isn't spelled out super-clearly on etickets or anything.

Lastly, out of interest what class were you travelling?
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Old Jul 18, 12, 7:07 am
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I'm sure the 13 hour rule is on their website, but I spent very little time on their website after learning I couldn't use it to view / change / do anything with my reservation.

The four of us were in economy class.

And figures we ended up getting one of the last remaining old A340s. Seems odd to me Virgin would choose to place an old plane on a new route (back to my first impressions comment). I would suspect most(?) customers on this route are new to Virgin, and therefore wouldn't you want to put your best foot forward to impress all these new customers in hopes of gaining their loyalty?
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Old Jul 18, 12, 7:36 am
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That would mean airlines being logical... I'm not sure they're good at that

I feel for you on baggage. While some airlines have been complete baggage black holes for me (KLM, i'm looking at you), I've never lost them both out and back And when VS detained my luggage in TAB due to a tech issue with their aircraft, they were slow to return initially, but when I chased them they were very apologetic and came back at light speed.

I am not quite sure why kids wouldn't like onions on their sandwiches though. Pretty common over here, so maybe it's a cultural thing?
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Old Jul 18, 12, 9:51 am
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And figures we ended up getting one of the last remaining old A340s. Seems odd to me Virgin would choose to place an old plane on a new route (back to my first impressions comment). I would suspect most(?) customers on this route are new to Virgin, and therefore wouldn't you want to put your best foot forward to impress all these new customers in hopes of gaining their loyalty?
As Jenbel says, you're looking for logic in all the wrong places! Sounds like you just had one of those trips :/

"Stuff" happens. Aircraft's could of went tech necessitating a switch, or it was just Vancouver's unlucky day (somewhere has to be!).

To be fair on the on onion/sandwich front..I rarely complain about "food stuffs I don't like" appearing on airplanes as all people can't be pleased all of the time.
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Old Jul 18, 12, 1:21 pm
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Your "worst flying experience ever"..?

Poor quality video, delayed baggage, seat requests not being met, and onion in a cheese sandwich.

But you got there safely though? To the correct destination?

Last edited by McCoy; Jul 18, 12 at 1:33 pm
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Old Jul 18, 12, 2:02 pm
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Well until I'm on a flight that crashes / has a pilot or flight attendant that has a mental breakdown / ends up landing at the wrong airport / forces me to sit on the runway for 13 hours / <enter worse flying experiences here>, then yes...for me personally this was the worst airline travel experience I've had to date. Perhaps you have experienced far worse, and therefore my personal experiences can't compare. Maybe I'm just lucky.

But when I'm paying for a premium product, my expectations are just a bit higher than were I flying US Scare / RyanJet / some other low cost budget carrier. Yes I do expect my kids to be able to watch videos / TV shows...yes...the ones that the airline advertises that they offer on the flight. Yes I do expect those videos to aid in entertaining them while stuck on a on a plane for 10 hours. Yes I do expect my luggage to arrive at my destination with me and at the same time. And yes I do expect the airline to honor seat requests, especially when traveling as a family. When traveling alone, not so big a deal. When traveling with small children, it all of a sudden IS a big deal. I can't personally remember the last time that my seat request was not honored. Virgin was made well aware of the situation with their website not permitting me to manage my reservation and they had many many opportunities to verbally inform me of the 13 hour OLCI rule (i.e. if I wanted to keep those seats I needed to call back and do a phone check-in).

I completely understand that "stuff happens", but IMHO this "stuff" is usually reserved in the "you get what you pay for" situations. I certainly did not get the quality of service that I expected and thus my complaint. Maybe these travel hiccups happen to you on a more regular basis and therefore your expectations are lower, but they don't happen to me, and they certainly better not happen when I've chosen to spend more money for a supposedly premium product. And I had MANY options (and many CHEAPER options) that would also have gotten me to the correct destination and gotten me there safely. I personally think that is a rather reasonable expectation no matter what carrier we're flying on (Singapore Airways, RyanAir, ValuJet, etc). If arriving safely and to the correct destination were my ONLY consideration when flying, then I certainly could have saved myself quite a bit of $$$ by flying a different carrier.

Last edited by ajcopley; Jul 18, 12 at 2:19 pm
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Old Jul 18, 12, 3:09 pm
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Sorry you had such a poor experience. I'm afraid the non-AVOD 343s assigned to the Vancouver route are indeed the short straw in the LHR fleet.

The VS 13-hour seat request thing is a bit odd and I feel for you getting caught out by it.

As for the luggage -- that is really poor (but also probably just very bad luck)

I hope you get an apology, at least.

If it's any consolation (and it won't be), they can be brilliant, but I will certainly admit there are inconsistencies...
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Old Jul 18, 12, 3:11 pm
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Originally Posted by ajcopley View Post
Well until I'm on a flight that crashes / has a pilot or flight attendant that has a mental breakdown / ends up landing at the wrong airport / forces me to sit on the runway for 13 hours / <enter worse flying experiences here>, then yes...for me personally this was the worst airline travel experience I've had to date. Perhaps you have experienced far worse, and therefore my personal experiences can't compare. Maybe I'm just lucky.

But when I'm paying for a premium product, my expectations are just a bit higher than were I flying US Scare / RyanJet / some other low cost budget carrier. Yes I do expect my kids to be able to watch videos / TV shows...yes...the ones that the airline advertises that they offer on the flight. Yes I do expect those videos to aid in entertaining them while stuck on a on a plane for 10 hours. Yes I do expect my luggage to arrive at my destination with me and at the same time. And yes I do expect the airline to honor seat requests, especially when traveling as a family. When traveling alone, not so big a deal. When traveling with small children, it all of a sudden IS a big deal. I can't personally remember the last time that my seat request was not honored. Virgin was made well aware of the situation with their website not permitting me to manage my reservation and they had many many opportunities to verbally inform me of the 13 hour OLCI rule (i.e. if I wanted to keep those seats I needed to call back and do a phone check-in).

I completely understand that "stuff happens", but IMHO this "stuff" is usually reserved in the "you get what you pay for" situations. I certainly did not get the quality of service that I expected and thus my complaint. Maybe these travel hiccups happen to you on a more regular basis and therefore your expectations are lower, but they don't happen to me, and they certainly better not happen when I've chosen to spend more money for a supposedly premium product. And I had MANY options (and many CHEAPER options) that would also have gotten me to the correct destination and gotten me there safely. I personally think that is a rather reasonable expectation no matter what carrier we're flying on (Singapore Airways, RyanAir, ValuJet, etc). If arriving safely and to the correct destination were my ONLY consideration when flying, then I certainly could have saved myself quite a bit of $$$ by flying a different carrier.
Thought you said you were in economy? If you were then you weren't paying for a premium product.

The 13 hour giveaway your seat policy is close to as idiotic as I have seen anywhere. I've done several trips with them recently and I get a pre flight email warning me of this even though I'm in UC.

I've also had luggage issues with them. At LHR 1 of 6 bags didn't make it. Ground staff insisted that it made the plane so it must be at LHR. Probably true but LHR's a big place and it wasn't where it was supposed to be.

Eventually got it 24 hours later and I filed a claim. Don't know if I'll get a payment but I did get a automated email basically thanks for my claim and they were still looking......

Overall I've had mixed luck. If I was paying full price for UC I'd probably write more but given the deep discount UC fares I figure it's still a cut above UA or AA and a little hassle's ok
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Old Jul 18, 12, 3:49 pm
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Originally Posted by sdix View Post
Thought you said you were in economy? If you were then you weren't paying for a premium product.
We were in economy. When I say "premium product", I'm referring to the level of service one would expect to receive when flying one of the upper tier carriers (Singapore, Virgin Atlantic, etc) vs. when flying a not-so-upper-tier carrier (U.S. Air, United, etc). I could have paid less for an economy ticket and flown a different carrier. I chose to pay more to fly with Virgin thinking even the economy class experience would be better than the economy class experience on UA, USAir, etc. Certainly this is a safe assumption for one to make. I of course understand that the level of service on the same carrier (Virgin's economy vs. premium economy vs. upper class) is vastly different, but that's not what I'm comparing.
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Old Jul 18, 12, 6:45 pm
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Originally Posted by ajcopley View Post
We were in economy. When I say "premium product", I'm referring to the level of service one would expect to receive when flying one of the upper tier carriers (Singapore, Virgin Atlantic, etc) vs. when flying a not-so-upper-tier carrier (U.S. Air, United, etc). I could have paid less for an economy ticket and flown a different carrier. I chose to pay more to fly with Virgin thinking even the economy class experience would be better than the economy class experience on UA, USAir, etc. Certainly this is a safe assumption for one to make. I of course understand that the level of service on the same carrier (Virgin's economy vs. premium economy vs. upper class) is vastly different, but that's not what I'm comparing.
If you think that the "premium" airlines offer better service in economy, then you must have been misled! When it comes to basic economy, there really isn't that much difference amongst the airlines. It is in premium economy and in business or first that you do see a difference in service quality amongst the airlines. So, don't expect more in VS's basic economy. If you had sprung for premium economy, then you would have noticed a difference (wider seats and slightly better service) as compared to United's Economy Plus. Sorry to hear about the baggage, though.
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Old Jul 19, 12, 10:01 am
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VS economy on the old non-AVOD flights is still better than AA/United economy on the 767 fleets where they don't even have PTV's!
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Old Jul 19, 12, 3:11 pm
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I have to say the most shocking thing about this story is the 13 hr thing.

I mean the rest of it sucks (a lot) and if it was me I would feel exactly the same as the OP. However none of the rest of it is "by design." Which is to say that nobody at VA has sat down and does these things on purpose (i.e. loses bags or gives you buggy AVOD).

The 13 hr thing is something they have sat down and done on purpose. That is a horrible policy, and I have a VA flight coming up and I wasn't aware of this policy and have never seen it on their web-site.

So if I wasn't an avid FT reader I would have no idea; and even being aware of it it still annoys the heck out of me as in a lot of geographical locations it is impossible to check in 24 hrs early as you have no internet access.

I'm actually quite annoyed by this policy, it hasn't even impacted me but I still feel like writing them a snotty e-mail about it...

I might seriously have to take that into account whenever flying to anywhere where internet access is limited and or phone calls are hugely expensive (e.g. the USA).
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Old Jul 19, 12, 3:17 pm
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The t-13 issue only applies to flights ex LHR.

It is t-2 hours for all other stations.

This has been a long term policy of VS so is not new.

As to the website it is on the 'on line check-in' page!

https://www.virgin-atlantic.com/en/g...ckin/index.jsp
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Old Jul 19, 12, 3:21 pm
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Originally Posted by McCoy View Post
Your "worst flying experience ever"..?
Originally Posted by ajcopley View Post
We were in economy.
<shudder>
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