28th August 2013 at 16:13 #523107
Anonymous28th August 2013 at 16:13 #523108
Checking in online to a Virgin flight for Master Sinclair and me to find our pre assigned seats had been changed did not bode well. What I also found unsatisfactory was the disjointed way, I was told by VS ticket staff – nothing they can do as they are not at the airport. Best idea is for me to go to the airport to sort the issue out. The ticket staff could see the allocated seats, but a “U” now meant unsalable..
The reality meant that I had to go to Gatwick far earlier than anticipated to sort the seats out, which I did and was reallocated the seats with no hassle – 6a and 6K.
This was my first Gatwick VS departure for a number of years. The new Fast track security was excellent as was the welcome into the refurbished Club House, which I had not been into since the wonderful days of Linda S (Since retired) was superb, especially as there were one or two familiar faces who recognised me from years ago.
I was greeted by Holly (certainly no BA lounge dragon), who could not do enough for me, including turning herself into an investigator to establish exactly what had happened to my seating reservation.
In the meantime, my travelling companion, Master Sinclair settled into the lounge spirit, ordering copious amounts of food and drink. Well he had just flown in from Israel, having been on a school tour for the past 4 weeks and looked a little on the thin side…
Holly returned to confirm the initial seats were broken, but an aircraft switch had been made and I was assured the seats were now working. Holly was also interested (genuinely) why I switched away from Virgin to BA and it was nice to speak to an airline manager, who took an interest and really did care.
Boarding into Upper I was greeting by a sticky sign on Master S’s table saying “sorry I am broken”. I then queried why I was could not see the safety briefing – IFE was not working, but only on 6K and 7K. Half way through the flight, it was also confirmed that Master S’s seat needed some manual dexterity by the cabin crew to make if go back … it too was broken.
The FSM, could not have been more embarrassed and helpful. Helena O, was clearly from the old school at VS, genuinely cared and wanted to resolve as best she could. She wrote up a detailed report before landing, ran through it with me and promised to deliver it to the Executive Office. A small number of airmiles were offered, but I declined on the basis that the amount seemed insufficient. Apart from these issues, the service on board was SUPERB!
Now comes the icing on the cake…. I emailed Holly when I landed to let her know the aircraft had not been switched and also to confirm that the FSM was submitting a report. At this point, I truly expected I would need to write in, expressing my dissatisfaction and starting the “gesture of good faith” route
However, no such need. I had an email from SB in the Executive Office who had received a full report within 24 hours and a phone call followed with a discussion along the lines of I should have been told by the gate staff that the seats were not working, as well as the crew (who apparently did not know either) , basically SB admitted that there was a breakdown in communications and it should not have happened. The replacement aircraft had the same two seats malfunctioning!!!
SB then asked if there was anything she could do to assist making my return journey more comfortable. Perhaps in the past, like others, I would think “let battle commence” – but I only asked whether it would be possible to switch my return flight JFK-LHR to Orlando-Gatwick. The request made on what is arguably the busiest period for this route, beginning of a new school term
Master S was returning with his mother separately. The benefit for me being I would not need to buy a separate MCO-NYC ticket and waste time going up to New York before flying home. I confirmed to SB that I was flexible in terms of travel dates and gave her a 3 day window to maximise opportunities. With 72 hours, I had an email confirming the change. I considered this an extremely fair solution, after all, VS had confirmed the issues in a very open and transparent manner, I received an excellent and fair service recovery, the matter was dealt with extremely efficiently and without the need for me to write in with a complaint.
Oh…. and this was an airmiles booking and I hold zero status with Virgin having lost my Gold card a few years back.
As for the flights:
Like BA, Virgin appears to be having issues with their 747’s. I don’t like the Herringbone, but I still manage to sleep (very well). The IFE (when it works) is excellent and as for the food… Outbound the vegetarian Green curry and inbound the Salmon. Both were excellent and very delicious. Served hot and fresh…
The cabin crew both ways were superb, the outbound crew slightly better, but to be fair, they had the day time flight. The return from Orlando, most crews want to get the service over to maximise sleep and the crew did that in a very fast and “friendly” manner.
The only 2 negatives – the upper class cabin sounded like a disco when we boarded, I think the music could be turned down slightly (or am I just getting OLD!!) and the return last night, cabin crew need to understand passengers don’t need to hear their gossip when they gather in the forward galley.
What really stood out for me with these 2 VS sectors were the way Customer Relations dealt with this matter in a fair and speedy manner, without the need for a “fight”. The 3 members of staff I had contact with, Holly from the lounge, Helena (outbound FSM) and SB from the Executive Office, ALL showed genuine care and attention for the issues and more importantly for the passenger. This is the first time in nearly 35 years of International Travel that I genuinely felt employees from an airline wanted to resolve a problem and see me back as a passenger.
The result is I will return to Virgin and will try them for a London to Asia trip next month over BA. I really liked the way the staff cared and answered a problem (in writing) in a clear, concise and honest manner – well done VS.28th August 2013 at 22:11 #523109
Sounds like an impressive experience. The LGW 747s are recently refurbished and have all the mod cons and lovely interiors. On your Asian flight, you will likely be on an A346 which are nice and quiet but the IFE is not the same as the newly refurbed jumbos. Make sure you get to the airport with at least 10 hours to spare to make good use of the clubhouse…28th August 2013 at 22:22 #523110
This is heartening to hear, as dealing with BA is a bit like encountering the Borg in Star Trek, ‘resistance (to our cut and paste letters) is futile.’
Good old fashioned service is a strong differentiator.29th August 2013 at 02:22 #523111
Well written report Martyn. Most impressive care & service by Virgin. Linda was always a welcoming personality at the Gatwick Clubhouse.
Personally I prefer the Virgin bed over BA but the herringbone pattern needs revision to mimic the AA seating, ie window facing for A & K seats.
Virgin certainly appear to have an upper hand over BA in dealing with problems. I had a problem with seating on an Upper Class flight from Antigua to Gatwick. The FSM handled the problem superbly & I received personal communication fom SRB himself.29th August 2013 at 07:23 #523112
Had largely the exact same problem with Aer Lingus 8 years ago…. However they were very unhelpful and unwilling to compensate.
However I score a nice victory in the small claims court and received air miles equivalent to a J return to NYC. I my case EI knew our 2 seats were broken on a full flight but waited until the doors were closed before telling us.29th August 2013 at 08:44 #523113
Martyn this was a heartening post and it is great that you told the story in such detail. Great to see this kind of recovery and attention by VS and an example to other airlines that personal and real communication between the buyer and provider can result in business benefit, in this example choosing them over BA for your next Asia trip.29th August 2013 at 08:57 #523114
Apparently, SRB pops into the call centre occasionally.
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