Virgin Airlines - 21st Century Customer Service

 Subj:Virgin Airlines complaint
Date:18/03/02 20:16:48 GMT Standard Time
 From: (Dave Sander)
 To: ('')
 CC: ('')

 Dear FAA,

 I am writing to formally complain about the service/treatment that I have
 received from Virgin Airlines.  My girlfriend and I took a trip from Los
 Angeles to London in December of last year.  We completely understood that
 in the wake of the September 11th attacks, airline security would be much
 tighter than we had previously experienced.  Bearing this in mind,  we were
 fully prepared to do what needed to be done in order to preserve safety
 concerns and work with the airlines.

 We booked our flight with Continental from LAX to LHR.  I believe the flight
 # was 1030.  In LAX, they would only allow me to carry on one bag, they said
 that this was policy.  I had planned to carry on two bags, a backpack with a
 walkman and camera as well as my normal small suitcase for my laptop.  Since
 the backpack offered no protection for the articles inside, I reluctantly
 chose to check the small suitcase.  One thing that really made me mad was
 that when I got on the plane, most of the people had carried on more than
 one bag!!

 We had a scheduled stop in Cleveland, but were supposed to stay on the plane
 to go to Boston to catch our flight to London.  When we got to Cleveland, we
 waited on the plane until they told us to get off because the flight to
 Boston was cancelled.  Continental personnel on the plane made no attempt to
 help us find new arrangements nor did they make a suggestion to go to
 Customer Service.

 We got to Customer Service and they re-routed us on a flight to
 Washington-Dulles, but failed to put us in seats together on the flight to
 London.  We got to Washington-Dulles where they told us we wouldn't be
 sitting together.  When we got on the plane, we had to broker a deal with 8
 other passengers so that we could sit together.

 We get to London, only to find out that both of our bags had been lost.  We
 waited for such a long time for them to try to locate the bags that we
 missed our pre-paid taxi to Victoria station.  We not only had to pay for
 the original taxi, but an additional taxi ($90) just to make our train.  As
 we walked out, we found one of our bags in a huge pile of luggage marked
 "unclaimed", yet it had never been put on our turnstyle.  When we arrived in
 Paris, I got a call from Virgin who said they had located our other bag (the
 one with the computer) and that they were going to give it to British
 Midland to deliver to us in Paris.

 During the next week, I called nearly everyday to find out about my bag.
 Virgin "Customer Service" reps never called me back as they promised they
 would do and the bag was never delivered until we returned to Paris 6 days
 later.  The Virgin customer service reps I spoke to were Emma, Sharon,
 Claire, Simon, Peter (he called back once), Susie, Lee, Clementina, and
 Joanne.  When the bag did arrive it had been broken into and my laptop had
 been stolen.  During the entire time it was missing, it was in the hands of
 either Virgin Airlines or British Midland.  This means that an airline
 employee broke into my bag and took my property.

 They were of very little help in solving the situation in London and
 recommended that we pursue a claim with the US customer service office when
 we returned.  The agent I spoke to (Joanne, a supervisor) had a horrible
 attitude and actually said that she was sorry someone stole my computer but
 I should have had insurance.  Since when have passengers needed insurance to
 protect them from the AIRLINES gross misconduct???  After a long talk and
 some obvious anger by me, she did promise to make sure my girlfriend and I
 sat together on the flight back, and were also upgraded to the next class of
 service.  Of course, when we arrived at the airport none of this was noted
 and we got the shaft again.  Not only did we not get upgraded, but we were
 not able to sit together, again.  We had to make a deal with other
 passengers and it ended up angering a family who were split up as well.

 Since our return to the US, Virgin customer service has been pitiful.  I
 spoke to Laurie in the US Customer Service and then to Cathy O'Shea.  Cathy
 is a supervisor who seemed to actually care and promised to try to get
 something done. I never heard from her again and she hasn't returned my last
 8 phone calls.  Another agent today (Laura Bell) said that the compensation
 offer I received for $150 (the computer was $2000, the bag was $200, the
 phone calls I made were about $60, plus the extra taxi ride and aggravation
 during my vacation) is more than they usually do and they would be doing us
 a favor by offering an upgrade on my next Virgin flight.  I didn't take the
 offer because I find it very unlikely that I will ever fly Virgin again and
 the $150 offer is more insulting than anything else.  I would be a bit more
 understanding if something had happened and the bag was out of the hands of
 airline employees, but it wasn't The bag was in the possession of either
 Virgin or British Midland and one of their "trusted" employees committed a
 crime.  However, Virgin seems more concerned about hiding everything than
 making any attempt at all to helping their customers.  There was not one
 aspect of my experience with Virgin that was enjoyable, in fact they have
 the worst customer service of any group, company, or organization that I
 have ever had contact with.

 I did, though, want to make a formal complaint with the FAA.  I do not know
 of any other industries that can screw their customers so completely like
 the airlines and then smile and say" Sorry, we aren't liable".  If their
 service doesn't improve, I wouldn't be surprised if many more airlines file
 for bankruptcy.  Consumers can only take so much before they find others
ways to meet their needs.

 I do not know what, if anything this letter will do, but I wanted the
 situation to be known just the same.

 Dave Sander
 Export Manager

 C International
 499 E. Mill St
 San Bernardino, CA 92508
 tel # 909-890-1608 or
 888-891-2688 x 364
 fax # 503-213-9398

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