Is Virgin Faltering?

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That’s the question I was asking myself last night sitting onboard my Sydney – Melbourne flight. I was questioning why I was persisting with Virgin instead of just flying Qantas. Let me explain.
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Like many people I was given a Status Match in August 2011 to Platinum, matching my Qantas Platinum. A great marketing coup to have many Qantas flyers who had the “handcuffs” on and didn’t want to switch airlines and lose benefits like lounge access and preferred seating.
I managed to re-qualify for Platinum thanks to some credit card offers and Family Pooling. Being Platinum gives you the choice of preferred seats, which includes Row 3, the front of Economy with extra leg room and no one to recline in front of you.
With all the travel coming up I decided that I would pursue Platinum again as it comes in handy. The decision I currently feel I may regret. I’ve always found the service with Virgin to be good, not outstanding but then I do no ask for much on a flight. They have some great lounge staff who always say hello and recognise you so it makes you feel welcome. But of late some of that service is dropping. I am not sure if the staff feel overworked or its something else, but it felt like they have lost some of the mojo.
The problem became worse when the new Sabre booking system was introduced in the middle of January. Simple tasks such as seat selection were gone and the website, which was already dis-jointed, became a nightmare to navigate and use. Everything was separated and nothing was easy. So many things required a phone call to the Guest Centre to correct. I, like many people, don’t want to call up, but simply log online make the change and be gone again. All out the window for the moment and at least a few months before it is re-integrated into the website
So last Friday I arrived at the Sydney lounge and asked for a re-print of my boarding pass. I was handed a new boarding pass and to my surprise I had been upgraded. Nice present for Friday night and my second for the year. After struggling to find a seat with some work colleagues due to the lounge being at capacity, we sat for an hour playing flight lotto, some cancelled most delayed. To my surprise mine was boarding almost on time.
Off to the gate I went, where it was a bit of a mess. Priority boarding wasn’t up to scratch. the agent scanned my boarding pass and it flashed red with a terrible beep. I was told to see the gate agent. He then presented me with a another new boarding pass, this time back in economy and in a middle seat, which most frequent flyers loathe. i was given no explanation for the “downgrade”. He basically shrugged his shoulders and said i couldn’t even get my original seat back.
So naturally I was pretty angry by this stage. Virgin giveth and Virgin taketh away. It’s not an isolated event either. There are plenty of stories on various forums about exactly the same treatment. It’s poor form by the airline. If you give out an upgrade, you honour it. not suddenly remove it and place the person into a less than ideal seat. It’s the ultimate kick in the teeth for a regular flyer and it is no way for an airline to treat top tier members.
Although I have had no proper answer from Virgin yet, they seem to be quick to hand out hollow apologies or empty promises. There is only so many you can take before questioning why you are bothering.
For me, it means a full switch back to Qantas. My plan was to do this when my frequent flyer year re-started, but I have no brought that forward.
I do hope Virgin lift their game, we need two competitive airlines in Australia to keep each other on their toes.

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Nick La Galle

Nick La Galle

An avid traveller with over 500 flights to his name, Nick enjoys spending time in the air and sharing his tips with new travellers.

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