Richard Branson, where are you? Do you even care about the mess your formerly good airline, Virgin Atlantic, has become. Are you so content praise from the Virgin America fanboys that what happens on your flagship carrier matters not, anymore? I guess they’ll learn, as things degrade over there as well. Here’s a little rant from one of your gold card members. You know — the folks you supposedly want to take care of. I ain’t been feeling so taken care of, which makes me fear even more for what’s going on with the non-gold members.
I loved Virgin. Remember, way back in 2006 I even wrote about how I’d pay more to fly with Virgin because:
Virgin also makes me happy since they seem honestly happy to see me, and this is even in the days when I was flying economy as a regular non-gold passenger. BA’s staff feels like they hate working there, and that attitude shows.
Ah, the good old days. Since that time, it’s like you’ve conspired to turn me away. I still find it difficult to use my many frequent flyer miles and seriously begin to wonder if I’ll reach the 2 million miles figure needed to do one of your suborbital flights. No doubt if I do, I’ll be told that there’s only availability for one day in the next 20 years. Enough. Free up some seats. And stop giving me companion tickets that are useless, where I have to buy a ticket as such an absurdly high price that it’s actually cheaper to buy two tickets rather than take “advantage” of the free companion ticket offer.
Have customer service people that can actually do things. My last flight from California, I paid good money — lots of good money — to do upper class on the way back. You know, so I could work and sleep. But it turned out my seat table didn’t work. That meant eating dinner in my lap, then working on my laptop in my lap. Hey, I know it’s a laptop — but if you promise tables, I should get one. And if I don’t, I want a little something more than a small number of miles to make up for the problem. Comp the damn ticket or give me many more miles closer to the cost to the ticket. They cost you nothing, and at least I’ll feel like you really care. Plus, you know, you didn’t deliver what you should have.
I greatly enjoyed my last flight to New York. I’d bought a ticket; my wife was using miles (yes, a rare occasion when there was availability). We arrive at the ticket counter, and we don’t have seats together. I mean, the tickets were booked at the same time. HOW HARD IS IT? Customer service sent me a note afterward apologizing and saying that I might request adjoining seats in the future. But it also notes that these are guaranteed.
Duh. I could have told them that. I’ve routinely arrived at your counter with the whole family, all of whom had tickets booked at the same time, paid in the same way, only to discover you’ve put all four of us in different places. Are you insane? Is it just that you like to make the check-in people do their merry little endless typing?
As this went on with my last trip, I asked if we could just upgrade from premium economy to upper class. I had plenty of miles. Plus, you and I both know Virgin’s dirty little secret. You routinely oversell premium economy and you bump all the gold card holders up. This should have been no problem to do.
Well, it was. My wife could be upgraded since her ticket was already on miles. But me, with an actual paid-for ticket? I could only upgrade if I wanted to pay $2,000 more. I thought that was a bit pricey so said no.
Off we went to the gate, where Virgin’s idea of “priority boarding” means that premium economy and upper class passengers are actively encouraged to shove through the existing line of economy ticket holders. You’ve been doing this for more than two years. It’s rude. It’s uncomfortable, and I won’t do it. So one of the perks of my ticket is useless. Open up another damn line!
More fun at the gate. Bing! My ticket sets off an alarm. Oh look, I’ve been upgraded. You know, bumped from premium economy to upper class exactly as I knew would happen — what was apparently impossible to do at the check-in gate. But my wife’s not bumped, and now it’s too late to upgrade her with miles as it was before. Oh well, see you dear, I’ll just be lounging around in upper class and will check in from time to time.
Yeah, I gave up my ticket. Kind of funny, when I asked the guy in the aisle seat next to her that I wanted if I could trade, before I could even get the words out of my mouth, he said “No!” I replied I was sorry, I just thought he might want to take my upper class seat. Funny how that changed his attitude.
I know, I’m a baby. I’m whining about a bunch of silly sounding things. But I fly with you a lot. I’ve deliberately chosen you over other airlines. And you’re letting me down. Your staff more and more seems to think the airline is there as a private club for them, rather than attending to your passengers. That’s improved a bit in the past few months, but there’s still that attitude. The Heathrow lounge — well, you know that’s to die for. But I can get my haircut and my shoes shined elsewhere.
Here’s a little checklist of things I’d like to see happen:
- Separate boarding lines for priority passengers, guaranteed
- Seat passengers booked at the same time together, guaranteed
- Never make me stand at a check-in desk while someone types for 20 minutes. I know, I know — it’s not just a Virgin thing, but c’mon, along with solving global warming, can’t we get drag-and-drop reservation systems?
- Make it easier to use mileage awards — like open up more seats to at least match what BA offers
- Companion ticket offers should be good for any class of ticket. Otherwise, they’re just a con
- Don’t make me have to ask four times for a Diet Coke. It’s like routine. We don’t all drink wine with dinner. But kudos on finally serving Diet Coke on occasion rather than that awful Virgin Cola
- When something goes wrong, empower your staff to provide a fix rather than an excuse. I’m not asking for unreasonable things. But when we all know there are going to be bumps, just let them do it.
Oh, and the next time you lose my snowboard, I don’t know — act like you’re really sorry about it and maybe make it up in some way. But it was nice to get it back after three days, I suppose.