Virgin Gold tarnishes

Old Nov 3, 13, 4:01 pm
  #1  
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Join Date: Oct 2013
Location: East coast Australia
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Virgin Gold tarnishes

(this is my maiden post, apologies for its War & Peace volume)

Hello fellow Frequent Flyers, I'm looking for feedback and answers,

I flew Bris-Melb last Monday morning. Booths 1, 2 & 3 of Priority Check-in were engaged; I was next, but only one in the queue.
(*something occurred at this time that may shed light on this matter but insufficient space to capture it all in this post).
Booth 4 waved me over. Presented my Gold Card, answered correctly re destination, answered correctly re time of flight.
What happened next simply took me by surprise. In over a hundred flights over the past few Virgin years, I have NEVER been asked for my driver’s licence. (maybe I had an oblivious dream run?). But I was asked for it. I protested, arguing the Gold Card was my primary id source and with the responses I gave I thought I was ok to “breeze on through” as the Travel Benefits section states.
3 reasons were offered by the self-identified contractor:
“I’ve spent the last 10 years in Washington.” I am still yet to grasp the significance of this.
“We get lots of Smith’s and their luggage gets muddled”. I have a unique surname and possibly the only one to have flown this year.
“Someone could have picked up your card”. My Gold Card was a perfect match for my identical luggage tag so they must have stolen my luggage too.

(What was also running through my mind was my last trip to Brisbane, I certainly wasn’t driving, wasn’t hiring a car, wasn’t making any large purchases, was staying at hotel that knew me well, and I travelled with a stripped down wallet with no DL. I was totally unaware the airline had the right to deny me carriage if I wasn’t carrying a DL or Passport).

She re-stated a number of times that as a contractor Virgin had instructed her to check Id of every flyer, every flight, who dropped a bag.
If she is telling the truth, the general queues will get much longer and the whole system will slow.
All the way through I just felt like a naughty schoolboy being reprimanded by the school headmistress. During this tussle, I observed the 3 Priority Check-in booths. All Gold and Platinum holders were seamlessly moving through without DL requests. Consistency? But I relented and surrendered my Licence. An apology was made but the damage had been done; questions were firing within me left, right and centre.

Why was I singled out? A character judgement must have been made because with my card and correct answers I had satisfied my identity beyond doubt to 99.99% of staff. Why was I flying Virgin at all? Did my lifestyle need an overhaul and a review of travel requirements? As a person 20 months away from a Seniors Card was this the sort of ageism rubbish I’d better start getting used to?
Lounge time was consumed with a written complaint. Staff in there were great (as usual) and made a phone call or two on my behalf to help clarify. I could think of 20 positive helpful interactions with Virgin staff before this and half a dozen since. But which will I always remember?
I never got the usual friendliness. Just a clinical, unfriendly and robotic process that just looked like the operator was on a power trip waiting for a victim. I have flown Melb-Syd-Canb since; I have watched the Priority Check-ins avidly; yet to see a Drivers Licence request in 64 observations to date.
The reply to my complaint was courteous and apologetic but never once mentioned Gold status or Gold card which was central issue.(looked more like a cut and paste job). So I am left to deduce from other sources the question of “why I was singled out that morning”.

We live in an information society. Statistics, both qualitative and quantitative, provide insight and answers. So I’ve been surveying the Priority Check-In process and fellow travellers in the Lounges , and elsewhere on-line (this forum included).

But to attempt to turn a very negative experience into a positive one, I have created 4 changes (that generally refer to the (14 page) Conditions of Carriage that I think most flyers simply don’t read. (but I now carry with me in case I’m into contractor battle mode again).

Changes
1. Define whether Gold Card/ Platinum Card is positive, valid satisfactory identification under 6.4c of the C of C. (with a definition of “identity” under the introductory terms glossary).
2. Visually display at Airport check-in the “no DL/no Passport- no fly” rule as per 3.4
3. Incorporate photo id into Gold and Platinum cards.
4. Establish a Gold/Platinum Customer Service point with a National Co-ordinator to address member concerns.

Notes: 3. Voluntary for those content to tender DL/Passport to any Virgin staff member, contractor and permanent alike. Assuming it is only the visual confirmation Virgin require, if this suggestion is infeasible, then issue licence templates to requesting staff, that masks other personal information (home address, licence number, dob etc.) that the flyer doesn’t want contract staff viewing. Re point 4, this measure may expand Gold/Platinum membership. Re point 2, written in plain English rather than terms such as the ejusdem generis Rule as per Terms of Use. (not many would be aware of what this actually is I think.)

Thank you for reading, any feedback (positive or negative) more than welcome.

(and just to put things in perspective: I flew Mel-Syd 2 days later. 1300hrs flight. Cancelled. Got on next flight, hour later. Myself, another Goldie and a Plattie the only ones in a "no luggage arrival" situation. Turned up at hotel 2117hrs. Missed meetings (materials in luggage), had to re-schedule, paid for unnecessary overnight accom. But I can write it all of as an unfortunate incident. Tennis ball size compared to this “experience” which is comparatively the volume of the Sun. Too many questions about self, direction, image have arisen. And I think there are wider implications for the flying Virgin customer if this is the new recruitment, training and attitude stance).

Revolio
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Old Nov 3, 13, 6:02 pm
  #2  
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
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The requirments for checkin are:

To check in at our check-in counters all you need is a few simple details.
  • Booking reference number
  • A copy of your itinerary
  • Sufficient ID (preferably photo ID for security purposes when dropping off baggage).
Why they wanted to see your driver license is a mystery, but my own view is you are getting a bit worked up over a small matter....
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Old Nov 3, 13, 6:25 pm
  #3  
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Thanks Perthite: Yes you are right. It was more the undiplomatic, authoritarian manner of delivery rather than the actual request.
I posted the same content on another forum and was hammered; but I'm not precocious or over-sensitive - just wasn't my usual resilient self when I got one operators version of the Gold Card treatment.

Life (and lifestyle) review in progress. Certainly working on returning to total unflappability of younger years - "100% resilient - 100% of the time" is the new motto. Might be happier over at Qantas though when the current suite of flights expires.

First taste of grumpy old man syndrome? Lol - maybe. But if the whole episode was replayed with all its over-tones, undertones and subtleties, maybe you would get an idea as to why this incident enflamed me whereas others I easily dismiss.

I will take your advice though and put it behind me. (maybe just a little wiser for the future.) Thanks for the response.
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Old Nov 3, 13, 9:35 pm
  #4  
 
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It comes with travel - sometimes things just get under our skin. Sometimes a good vent is cathartic
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Old Nov 3, 13, 9:37 pm
  #5  
 
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Originally Posted by Revolio View Post
Might be happier over at Qantas though when the current suite of flights expires.
Until you try to redeem your Qantas Points, then you'll be wishing that the only thing you regretted was a momentary old man moment at check-in.
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Old Nov 4, 13, 3:37 am
  #6  
 
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I've done approx. 20-25 VA flights this year and only once was I asked for photo ID. I'm not sure why, but I didn't really give it much thought. If it is policy then it is being enacted very inconsistently.
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Old Nov 4, 13, 5:29 am
  #7  
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Originally Posted by matthandy View Post
I've done approx. 20-25 VA flights this year and only once was I asked for photo ID. I'm not sure why, but I didn't really give it much thought. If it is policy then it is being enacted very inconsistently.
Does that include checked bags?

The only time I have checked bags with DJ was about a year ago on a domestic segment and as a WP I was indeed asked for Id - this at MEL premium check-in.

The other 30 or so flight I did not check luggage (as is my preference).
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Old Nov 4, 13, 9:29 am
  #8  
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Originally Posted by serfty View Post
Does that include checked bags?

The only time I have checked bags with DJ was about a year ago on a domestic segment and as a WP I was indeed asked for Id - this at MEL premium check-in.

The other 30 or so flight I did not check luggage (as is my preference).
I checked in luggage at CFS back in August (the day the check-in system melted down) and was asked for ID, but it wasn't required when I showed them my BP on my phone.

Dave
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Old Nov 4, 13, 1:01 pm
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It has always struck me that if there is no chance of being asked for ID, there is little to prevent a gold card holder lending their name and their card to friends and relatives who are travelling solo - the friend would collect points and SCs for you and in return be able to use the lounge and get preferential seating.
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Old Nov 4, 13, 5:37 pm
  #10  
 
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Originally Posted by Mr H View Post
It has always struck me that if there is no chance of being asked for ID, there is little to prevent a gold card holder lending their name and their card to friends and relatives who are travelling solo - the friend would collect points and SCs for you and in return be able to use the lounge and get preferential seating.
Except for the small matter of being illegal...
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Old Nov 4, 13, 6:20 pm
  #11  
 
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Welcome to FT Revolio. Your maiden post (read, pointless rant with ridiculous heading) won't get much support from fellow FTers. Being Gold doesn't give you perk of not having to follow rules. And as others stated, the rule is to check ID (preferably photo ID) if bags being dropped. So move one, mate...

Last edited by vbroucek; Nov 4, 13 at 6:42 pm
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Old Nov 4, 13, 7:34 pm
  #12  
 
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Originally Posted by perthite View Post
Except for the small matter of being illegal...
Being illegal is not going to affect behaviour per se. What matters is whether the "law" is being policed - for example by checking photo ID once in a while. That was my point.
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Old Nov 5, 13, 2:58 am
  #13  
 
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I read your story over at AFF as well and resisted the temptation to chime in. But I'll add my 2c here.

A Red/Silver/Gold/Plat card is not identification. It has a name on it. That is all. No photo, no DOB, no address. There is no way of staff knowing you are the person whos' name appears on the card and it, IMHO, is derelict of them to assume so (I realize they routinely do).

When the police pull you over and ask for ID, you don't pull out your library card for ID.

I personally find it odd that airlines don't routinely check for ID on domestic flights. It seems to me that they SHOULD want to confirm who is on their flight, not just assume everybody is doing the right thing and booking under the correct name. You may ask why people would book under a false name? Trust me it happens and for a variety of reasons.

To that extent I find it strange how easy it is to book a flight under any old name, check in online, check no bags, not get asked for ID when you go through security and get on a flight completely unknown.
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Old Nov 5, 13, 4:07 am
  #14  
 
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Originally Posted by Airbumps View Post
To that extent I find it strange how easy it is to book a flight under any old name, check in online, check no bags, not get asked for ID when you go through security and get on a flight completely unknown.
^^ And then someone thinks that by putting full body scanners at domestic terminals security will be enhanced.

Will we ever see fingerprint/iris scanner at gates, cos that's the only point where ID can be requested from a passenger point of view (non-travellers go through security check points all the time with passengers to send them off/greet them so it's no use there).
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Old Nov 5, 13, 6:03 am
  #15  
 
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VA does not define acceptable forms of ID and perhaps should - what non photo ID is acceptable? In my experience a Medicare card is, or birth certificates for children. It is not uncommon for other full service airlines accept that airline's frequent flyer card or a bank card as ID for domestic flights.
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