Saturday, September 17, 2011

More on my Virgin Atlantic experience

The third (and final?) in a series of why Virgin Atlantic suck are the biggest let-down airline ever. You can see the first on how they make carbon offsetting a bit more difficult and they create stupid rules for stupid people

This one continues the second theme and emphasises how little they care about their customers - at least in their revealed preferences (i.e. actual behaviour rather than rhetoric), and how impressively dumb some people working there and at London Heathrow airport really must be.

So there I am at Heathrow having waited an excessively long time for the Virgin bags to come through when every other airlines' bags have arrived, and the excessively heavy 9kg bag which I was forced to check in with my grandmother's 90th birthday present, didn't come out. I've completed the forms along with every one else whose luggage has not arrived with the understandably frustrated two staff that Virgin decided to leave to deal with everything on a busy day. I make my trip to supermarket to purchase the things I need for a few days which Virgin has lost - maybe I should post them toothpaste and underwear and request a refund?

I phone up a few times and no progress. Then, the next day, I get a phone call! They think they have located my bag. It is in London Heathrow airport and in a central place where all the bags with no tags go. The bag matches my description - unfortunately, a small black suit case but happily with a bright green handle, and a flap with my surname and Washington address on it. Virgin have sent a request to say it belongs to me but BA think it might belong to one of their customers too - a Mrs Davies who lives in Washington DC. Clearly it is a bad day for bags belonging to Davii (yes, that is the correct plural). Virgin are pretty sure it belongs to be due to the fact that my phone number is on it. I agree that the probability of someone else having a bag with my number is remarkably low. London Heathrow baggage staff don't agree and Virgin doesn't seem to feel the need to impress this fact on them. Later that day, they fly it to Sydney to offer my bag to Mrs Davies.

I, of course, only find this out later and meanwhile, I phone several times and am told there is no new information.The request is apparently still with Heathrow Airport. Always nice to keep the customer informed of what is going on.

I fly back to the US and inform Virgin of this fact but ask them still to deliver the bag to my parents' address in the hope my grandmother might get her present before she leaves, BUT that they phone me on my US number - which I gave them (again).

This apparently simple request could be termed a 'fail' despite how clear I was. Clear because, by then, I had understood that a large proportion of the staff behaved in a severely mentally challenged way (and from the stupid rules applied to the letter regardless of circumstances, I can only infer that management feel the same way about their staff, and from the way they ensure there are insufficient staff about, possibly cause the staff to behave in this way).

Anyway, after I get back to the US, I phone the number - at a cost of 80cents per minute. The first call resulted in someone kindly phoning Heathrow for me but no one picked up. Great. More excellent service this time from Heathrow but she assured me she would follow up and keep calling them and call me back. The next day, no phone call so I phoned again. The chap was delighted to inform me that the bag had been found in Sydney and was on its way to London. I thanked him and hung up.

Then an email from my mother. My bag had arrived! Yay! WITHOUT KINDLE. This kindle being, of course, my grandmother's 90th birthday present.

I also had two voicemail messages on my British phone when I checked it. Fuck me! Well done Virgin. You cannot even change a primary contact number. One to say the bag had been located. The other from the courier people to say they would deliver the bag later that day.

I phone the 80cents per minute number again. The guy confirms that the bag had been delivered 15 minutes earlier. I tell him the kindle was missing (and two kindle covers).

I am unable to make a claim because Virgin allows staff to steal electrical goods from checked in luggage does not accept liability for checked in electrical items. I can make a claim for the covers. Which I will do presently. Of course, it may have been Virgin staff in Dulles or Heathrow or Sydney or baggage handlers in any of these places, or any customs/TSA or even Mrs Davies. Who knows. The guy on the phone tried to tell me it may have been customs or the TSA - but I said that if they had reason to contact me they would have done so but neither had. He conceded that the TSA puts a note in the bag to explain (there was no such note). But the fact is Virgin has stupid rules for check-ins enforced regardless of context, lost my bag, didn't make an effort to recover it, treated me rudely, failed to use the right number to contact me and made me pay, made no effort to sympathise about a lost present, forced me to buy extra things for a few days. Basically, I hold them fully liable. Below, I will add an extra positive and negative, just for fun.

A final couple of stories. On the trip back to the US, apart from the carbon offsetting problem, the trip was mostly good. No lost luggage for one. The guy who checked me in was *excellent*. Friendly, helpful. Showed me I could get extra leg room for 30 quid more -- great for a 6'2'' or so man. I noticed how good he was with everyone.

I checked in and then went to stand in a queue to pay my 30 quid (although the lady who checked me in didn't seem to know anything about that at all - seriously? is any training given at all???). The queue was long and the lady was having computer problems. I watched the queue grow even larger behind me. A Virgin employee must also have seen because she was hanging around. But she did nothing. One man was getting frustrated - clearly in a rush. I asked her if maybe 'they' might think about opening the second desk that was clearly there for this purpose. Which she did. Herself. But again, how dumb! Seriously! You see a queue getting longer and longer. The solution is clear but some how you need a customer to suggest that something could be done. Wow.

So, will I fly Virgin again? Well, I thought that they might become my regular trans-Atlantic airline, but now I don't think so. I might fly with them again, but I think I will have to assume that I will be treated like shit and that the trip will cost me, say $600 (that is about the cost of a new large kindle plus cover plus postage plus the things I had to buy in the UK etc) plus time and worry more than the cost of the ticket - let me round that all being worth about $1,000. So, I reckon I will fly Virgin again if their ticket is about $1,000 cheaper than the next best option. Otherwise, probably not. In any case, I am a believer in punishing those who do bad even at cost to yourself. It is the socially responsible thing to do.

I'd like to say it's been nice knowing you, Virgin, but, well... so far, it has not.

1 comment:

  1. this is indeed a terrible tale of woe, incompetence and villainy. Maybe the bag came back from Sydney via Joburg? The most interesting point is of course that the plural of Davis is Davii and please update this entry when your Gran gets her present, preferably with photographic evidence.