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Appalling service from Virgin Atlantic

London, United...
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Appalling service from Virgin Atlantic

I used Virgin Atlantic to fly to Cuba from London in August 2010. On the way back, I was struck in La Havana for nearly 3 days because of a mechanical problem with the plane. I will not go though the major inconveniences this has caused to me both personally and professionally. Virgin promised all passengers a complementary flight anywhere in the world (except on their Australia route) valid for 18 months.

It took me 5 months to receive a confirmation letter for this complementary flight. When I finally got it (after continually sending them emails and calling them), I called reservations in February 2011 to try and book a flight for June 2011 to be told "you called too late, no complementary seats are available, you should have called earlier". When I explained that I ONLY just received the confirmation letter, the lady didn't want to hear about it. She was the least helpful person that I have come across. For an airline advertising high standards of customer service and strong ethics, they have a pretty odd way to show it.

Basically, Virgin delivered false promises at the time of the incident in order to keep angry passengers quiet and avoid a considerable amount of complaints but they are now refusing to honor their offer, hiding behind lame excuses.

Houston, Texas
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1. Re: Appalling service from Virgin Atlantic

Another "Appalling / Bad / Worst Ever service from xxx (insert airline or hotel name)" post. I'm sorry for your difficulty. I'm trying to figure out if you are upset more about being stranded with the mechanical problem or not being able to "apply" your free voucher. I do know from personal experience that most airline's "free" vouchers are not normally available to use all the time; there are usually rules. Many airlines allocate these seats from the same bucket as frequent flier tickets, so sometimes you have to plan several months or even a year, in advance.

Houston, Texas
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2. Re: Appalling service from Virgin Atlantic

Welcome to the forum.

Thank you for writing in paragraphs. It is so much easier to read that way. Also thank-you for sticking to th facts. You are a standout as a first time poster. I hope you stick around and participate in other discussions.

Technical problems happen and when you are on the outskirts of the service area it can take a while for parts and expertise to make it to the site. Thank-you for not complaining about how long it took them to make the plane safe to fly.

I feel your pain on the voucher. That doesn't seem reasonable n their part. I admire your persistence.

Cala d'Or, Spain
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3. Re: Appalling service from Virgin Atlantic

Write a polite but firm letter (not email) to Richard Branson outlining the above and send a copy of the letter to the travel editor of the Sunday Times.

If you don't receive a satisfactory response, pursue the matter through the small claims court. The fact you have a confirmation letter should help.

I think Virgin Atlantic have lost a lot of their appeal, particularly if you use their Gatwick services - old planes, poor food and sloopy cabin crews.

Give me BA any day of the year.

Stanley, Falkland...
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4. Re: Appalling service from Virgin Atlantic

geomedic - can I just comment that your reply is a model of succint support, and yet a subtle message about what winds people up (lack of paragraphs, irrationality, etc).

I commend this to the FAQ section, which all new posters are forced to read before posting!

Swee'pea - good post. Read Tom Bower's book about Branson. The man has no shame.

New York City, New...
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5. Re: Appalling service from Virgin Atlantic

I've heard similar things about Virgin's complaints department...maybe they need a complaints department to deal with complaints about the complaints department! *wink*

I have heard though that writing to Steve Ridgway, CEO, and perhaps Branson does yield good results, a route I'd not always recommend for complaints.

Leeds, United...
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6. Re: Appalling service from Virgin Atlantic

I always read about people writing letters of complaints to the CEO of a company. I'm quite certain that in 99% of instances the CEO doesn't even see the complaint, it would be his PA who reads all mail/email. The complaint would then be forwarded on to the relevant department to deal with.

MAybe the way to write a letter of complaint is to stand out from the ordinary, a bit like this previous complaint with VA.


Manchester, United...
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7. Re: Appalling service from Virgin Atlantic


Instead of the vouchers, which were always a goodwill gesture in any case, you should pursue the compensation to which you are entitled in the event of the cancellation of your flight last August under EC 261/2004 Article 5.

This entitles you to 600 euros compensation per passenger and since this appears to have been due to mechanical failure then the airline is likely to have little defence under the Wallentin-Hermann precedent case judegement to validly refute your claim.

Ec 261/2004: eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do…

Wallentin-Hermann judgement: eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do…

Edited: 14 February 2011, 22:37
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8. Re: Appalling service from Virgin Atlantic

<<This entitles you to 600 euros compensation per passenger>>

Not a patch on a flight anywhere in the world though ... if you can get it.

Sydney, Australia
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9. Re: Appalling service from Virgin Atlantic

I can't speak for virgin atlantic, but in my own experience working for an airline, writing to the CEO directly in a complaint letter is a pointless excercise. It just gets passed straight to the customer service department without the CEO even knowing about it.

No CEO, especially someone as busy as Branson with a massive portfolio of companies has time to deal with something like this...they are too busy keeping the company running.

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10. Re: Appalling service from Virgin Atlantic


I do agree that if the complimentary flight voucher/letter/code/credit is what was promised by VS staff, then they have an obligation to provide it.. No issues there..

I will also say that I agree, in some cases free tickets do come with blackout dates or other restrictions.. In theory you should have or would have been told about there conditions at the time the offer was put forward.

As far as the notion that the reservation agent was "... the least helpful person that I have come across..." I think what you ran into was the reality that the phone agent just didn't have the proper authority to override the expiry date on the voucher.. While I wasn't there to hear both sides of the conversation, I will say that many airlines do in fact materially restrict and limit what their front-line employees can do when it comes to 'waivers and favors'..

That said, if that was the case-- and this is an assumption-- there is a better way and worse way to express this.. To simply say "sorry you called too late" isn't the right way..

It should be said "I'm terribly sorry, but I personally do not have the authority to modify the terms of your voucher. May I connection you to/transfer you to XXX who might better be able to help you with that?"

In the end, if VS promised you a voucher, then that's what they should provide and providing it five months later (assuming you didn't play a part in the delay process like have a out-of-date postal address or invalid email address) seems to be less than timely and at minimum it's validity should be extended to account for the delivery delay.

Last point, I do agree with msmegmog, while it may feel therapeutic or otherwise to address your letter to Mr CEO, the overall *odds* that it will ever get to him/her, be read by him/her, be personally acknowledged by him/her are infinitely small.. Yes, it happens from time to time, and when it does these reports tend to get press coverage, but for the overwhelming number of cases, addressing your letter outside of traditional customer service/support channels really only does serve to slow the process down.

Travel Safe,

Edited: 15 February 2011, 01:30