Saturday, February 19, 2011

Virgin America Support: WORSE THAN USELESS

Hey all, I realized that it's been a while since I've gone on a good rant.  Online rants are a fundamental part of my generation.  If us internet generation folk ever have our Woodstock, it'll be an epic 3-day flame war on 4chan.

So, without further ado, my unbiased and completely reasonable accounting of my experience with Virgin America support:

So back on Thanksgiving, the wife and I try to fly back from east coast to west.  We picked Virgin America.  They've got the cool new planes, the TVs in the seats, the hip staff and videos, decent prices.  None of the shitty service you'd expect from the older carriers that just survive on business travel (American, Delta, etc).

Flight gets delayed 90 minutes, then again, then again.  I guess there was a sensor problem, the leg from LA to DC was diverted to Chicago.  They said they had it fixed, then that they were waiting for a part.  Then that the plane was in the air.  Then that the plane was about to take off.  Then that the plane was FOR REALS, in the air.  Somewhere around 2AM, the plane lands and the folks from LA with the unexpected CHI layover finally deplaned.  THen after an hour or so, they cancel the flight at 3AM.  We'd been in the terminal for about 7 hours at that point and had a meeting in California that we were now going to miss.

Now, equipment problems happen and they suck.  Airlines don't want to cancel unless they're sure that they'll have to, because canceling is expensive.  So it's in their interest to string us along, and string us along they did.

Anyway, all the flights for Friday were booked long before our Thursday flight was canceled.  We had to wait until Sunday to fly out.  Definitely missed our meeting and had to get picked up by my brother at the airport at 4am on a Friday morning.  Sucks for us and him.

Virgin America Guest Care gives us each a $100 credit that expires in a year.  $100 isn't too much and we don't fly much so probably won't be able to use it, but I guess they did something.

Fast forward to now - my brother is trying to visit us.  Figured we'd give him our credits.  He tries the codes, no luck.

I call support and figure maybe I have to transfer them.  REAL struggle to get in line for a human.  Wait on hold for 30 mins or so and use their "we'll call you back" option.  They call back much later, after I'm already asleep.

Next day I call again.  I don't want to use the "call back" because I have a conference call in an hour and I don't want to miss Virgin's call because of my other call.  After 52 minutes I give up and write an email to support explaining my situation.  That was three days ago and support still has not responded.

Day after that, I call again.  7 minutes and I get a human.  YES!  Human says my brother needs "elevate."  Virgin America calls their frequent flyer program "elevate" I guess.  I suppose some inhuman marketdroid thought that sounded cooler than "frequent flyer program."  Whatever.  Like me, my brother is the opposite of a "frequent flyer," but I let him know that he needs to create an account.

Next day, he's created his account and sent me the number.  I call but it's late on a Friday and I guess the support line is down.

That brings us to today.  I call in in the morning and spend 45 minutes or so getting our credits transferred to my brother.  He goes to book the flight and the four days in between have apparently caused the flight to go up by 238 dollars.

So the process cost me all of my credits.  It's costing him $38 extra (well, not really - he's using a different airline...).

If support just told me that I couldn't do it and to book the flight, they'd have been useless.  No help, no harm.  They didn't accomplish that though - my experince COST time AND money.

They failed simple tasks like answering a phone.  They failed at less simple tasks like transferring credits with expedience.  They failed at the fundamental task of business - providing positive experiences for customers that would lead to customer loyalty.

At one point, I even recommended these guys to others.  Now I feel bad about that.  I'd like to get a list of everyone to whom I've said positive things about Virgin America and call them up in order to set the record straight.  I feel like I'd need to do that in order to protect my personal reputation as a reliable opinion.

Mostly, I'm bummed because my list of Airlines That Don't Suck was pretty short already and I'm sad to see it get shorter.

I'm also amazed because, as an engineer, I figure that the hard part about flying civilians across the country in 5 hours was, you know, the FLIGHT part.  Thing is though, we've nailed that.  We can put thousands of tons thousands of miles up at hundreds of miles an hour and land safely, all with food, TV, internet, reclining chairs and a reasonable cost.  No problem.

Compared to that, how hard is it to ANSWER A FUCKING PHONE?


1 comment:

Melch said...

My list of airlines that don't suck is pretty much Southwest. Jet Blue is on the list of airlines that seems decent but I haven't used much since their major cities are not cities that I need.