Fiji Horror on Pacific Blue

Discussion in 'Virgin Australia Velocity' started by blundeni, Jun 26, 2006.

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  1. blundeni

    blundeni Junior Member

    Jan 6, 2006
    21
    0
    We arrived at Nadi airport yesterday to discover that our flight - DJ176 to BNE - was cancelled.

    In talking to other passengers we discovered that some people had been notified the previous day, some on the morning of the flight - no notification for us though - which I guess is fair enough - they probably did not know where we where staying.

    The official excuse from people who had been informed of the cancellation seemed to be 'bad weather' in BNE although many people who rang home to check discovered that this simply was not the case.

    The line to check-in refused to move for over an hour before they started to check the flight in - I wandered around to talk to other passengers to discover that they were booking us in on DJ154 to SYD, with connecting flights to BNE. Even after the line began to move it was pretty slow going - I guess checking in on two flights at the same time slows everything down. I wandered up and down the line letting people know what I had found out, and listening to them tell me what they had heard - I figure that info is always the key to keeping people happy, and if I needed to complain about the cancellation, I wanted as much ammo as possible.

    We finally made the end of the queue and were checked into the flight an handed 2 sets of boarding passes - one for DJ154 to SYD, the other for SYD to BNE at 9:00pm. We were reasonably OK with going to SYD and then connecting to BNE - we figured it was better that staying in Nadi for a night, and we would still be home that night.

    DJ154 was supposed to depart at 2:55pm local time, but with all the BNE passengers trying to make the flight, it finally left at closer to 4:30pm local time. Once on board the plane, we were told that Nadi check in staff had major issues with their computers which meant that they were unable to check passengers in.

    The most disappointing part of this whole preocess was that at no stage was there any announcement to let people know what was going on either in the terminal or on board the plane (other than a few 'thank you for your patience' calls), and no one was forthcoming regarding the reason for the BNE flight cancellation - when asked directly the FA's trotted out the 'they don't tell us anything' line.

    As I said previously the flight got away at 4:30 local time - We managed to get eveyone from both flights (DJ154 and DJ176) on board which started the conspiracy theorists going about cost cutting, which probably isn't the case. Anyway, we figured that with a 5 hour flight time we would make our connecting flight.

    We touched down in Sydney at around 7:40pm (Ozzie time now) to be told by a local virgin representative (over the PA) that all passengers with connecting flights were going to be put up in hotels for the night as we had no chance of making our flights. No other info - just that.....

    We disembarked, went through immigration, collected our luggage and then went through customs reaching the Arrivals hall at 8:40pm so I guess that it would have been tight to make the flight - although had they really wanted us to I suspect that they could have made it happen.

    Once we went out into the arrivals halls we expected to be shown where to go, told about hotels and future flights etc, but there was no one from Virgin / Pacific Blue anywhere in the terminal that we could find. We wandered around looking damn confused until we stumbled accross the information counter who told us to goto Bus terminal 6. I asked where they had got this info from and they said that they had been told nothing by Pacific Blue, and that they had heard it from other passengers - some of whom had apparently seen a Virgin rep. I asked if they had tried to contact either Virgin or Pacific Blue, they replied that yes they had but were not able to contact anyone.

    With no other info to work on, we made out way down to Bus terminal 6 to find a number of other passengers looking pretty confused, some said we were going to the Mecure, others said it was the Ibis. When the buses for those hotels turned up, we queried the drivers - none of whom knew anything about anything - so not being sure no one got on the buses. By the time everyone turned up there must have been 60 - 80 people there - no of whom knew anything definitively. By this stage the info we had was pretty confused - any fact that we did have was so mixed with speculation and rumour that they were practically useless.

    After standing around for nearly 45 minutes in the freezing cold, Virgin staff finally turned up - 2 young ladies (Natasha and Kate) and some guy (Tom?). I say Virgin staff as they were not Pacific Blue - when I asked who they worked for I was told Virgin Blue. They seemed as confused as us, and when set upon by what was now a pretty unhappy group of people actually got pretty pissy in return. I held back although I really did not want to - I just couldn't see any point in beating these people up - that did not stop some others doing it of course....

    The Virgin staff clearly did not know much and certainly did not have the power to make any decisions - any request from the passenegers was relayed to someone in a nice cosy office. One of the Virgin staff remarked how cold she was getting - well you can imagine how that went down.

    The Virgin staff finally made an announcement after being there for nearly 10 minutes, and announced that some flights (they used the connecting flight numbers) were going to the Ibis, and others to the Mercure. They then rattled off flight numbers, DJ271 and DJ888 were off the Mercure - another Perth flight number was off to the Ibis - then they said DJ277 needed to stick around as they had not yet decided what to do with that flight - yup I was booked on DJ277.

    Apparently we had not been abused sufficiently yet, as passengers were made to wait for the hotel shuttles - which had to make several trips to get all the flights away. When some passengers complained and said what about taxis or another bus service, they were told that Virgin would not pay for the transfer - although we were generously told that Virgin would pick up our return costs. Have I pointed out yet that a lot of passengers had very small children, all of whom were freezing, most of whom were starving, and at least half were in tears - way to go Virgin!

    Flight DJ277 finally got the news that we were to be put up at the Ibis (10:05 pm), and that we were expected back at the airport and 6:15 - they could not tell us anything about which flights we would be on other than it would be either the 7:00am, 7:30am or 8:00am flight depending on how full the flights were - we were told that it was a first come first served basis. To add insult to injury we were then told that it was our responsibility to arrange return transportation

    The last message we received from the Virgin staff was that the hotel had been told that we were allowed $20 per passenger for food and beverage - I'm not sure when anyone from Virgin last visited a hotel in SYD, but I can tell you that $20 pp does not go very far.....

    My wife, myself and the 2 kids finally got to the hotel at 10:30pm. We checked into the hotel and were given 2 pokey little rooms - we enquired about return transfers to the airport and were told that there was a shuttle at 5:40am, which we duly booked.

    It already being late, with all of us freezing, pissed off and exceptionally tired, My wife and kids decided to forgo Virgin's generous offer food and drink and retired for the night. I slipped down after I got the kids to bed and grabbed a coke and a water.

    Our wake-up call came at 5:00am, and we made it to reception just ahead of the crowd. One lady made it before us, and had obviously made one of the earlier shuttles last night as she had managed something to eat before retiring. I know this because she was charged for the food - this despite her telling the receoptionist that Pacific Blue had told everyone that they had $20pp to spend. The Hotel knew nothing about that apparently and proceeded to ask for payment. I couldn't believe when she actually paid.... When my turn came I said to the receptionist that there was no way I was paying for anything - he checked with his Manager and they obviously decided that the $5 I owed was not worth the fight - the people behind me were equally vocal and also got off the bill.....

    We went outside to get on the Shuttle only to discover that it was already nearly full with nowhere to store our luggage. I ignored the driver and threw everything on board stating that he had no chance in hell of getting either myself or my luggage off the bus. The Driver gave in pretty quickly and we managed to get a further 2 families on board before we departed.

    Continued in the next post.....
     

  2. blundeni

    blundeni Junior Member

    Jan 6, 2006
    21
    0
    We arrived at the domestic terminal at 5:50am and went straight to guest services - neither of the two ladies on the counter knew anything about us or our predicament - so we and the other people beside me had great fun explaining the thing.

    As we were the second to arrive we expected reasonably confidently to make the 7:00am flight. No such luck, we were booked on the 8:00am flight. I asked first about the chances on getting on the 7:00am flight and then asked for 'The Lounge' passes for my family if we had to be on the 8:00am flight. I was told by the the Virgin staff member that as I was a passenger with Pacific Blue that there was no chance of either. I explained again to the young lady about the issues of the previous day, and asked her to reconsider - she told me pretty clearly that she could no help. At this point I insisted on speaking to someone who had the ability to make the decision. The lady behind the counter disappeared off to talk to her supervisor

    The other counter freed up at that point and the next family came and went - happy with their 7:00am flights. We were told pretty clearly that it was first come first served so I was not too happy at hearing this....

    After about a 10 minute wait the young counter lady returned saying that she had got me on the 7:00am flight, but that I was really lucky as Virgin and Pacific Blue were seperate companies and I shouldn't expect this sort of thing again. Honestly it was all I could do not to start screaming at that point....

    The flight to BNE went pretty smoothly - the expected 7:00am departure turned into 7:10am but that was insignificant compared to the rest of the experience.

    On arrival in BNE I asked both the flight crew and ground crew how I was expected to get from the Domestic terminal to the International terminal which is where I had parked the car - naturally enough as I had expected to arrive back there. As you can imagine at this point I was not surprised by Virgins complete lack of response to my suggestion that they should foot the bill for the taxi to the Internation airport.

    I'm in the process of formatting this into a letter of complaint. I'll post that in it's entirety once I have managed to express my feeling on the subject without resorting to swear words.....
     
  3. N860CR

    N860CR Established Member

    Nov 30, 2004
    3,255
    672
    Brisbane & Sydney
    Sounds like a somewhat unpleasant experience overall. I can't say I'm supprised about NAN staff struggling with the computer system. With all the flights I've made out of NAN (on FJ and NZ) they always seem to encounter issues with it.

    That is a fairly poor performance overall from DJ though. On the plus side, you did get a hotel which is something the other LCC in this country wouldn't do, however that's no concession.

    Get on to Virgin and explain it as you have done here. My experiences with the DJ customer service department indicate that it's fairly good at solving such issues so hopefully you'll get a result from them
     
  4. one9

    one9 Active Member

    Sep 14, 2005
    593
    8
    whilst the experience sounds badly handled, i think you need to remember that pacificblue/virginblue are discount airlines.

    you should not expect the same level of service from discount carriers as you would from normal carriers.

    when flying discount carriers, you should always be prepared that in the unlikely event something goes wrong, it will usually be a lesser and more timely solution offered. if you are not willing to take this small risk, i think you should not fly discount airlines.

    in saying this, i think you should still complain because the situation could have been handled much better even with discount offerings.
     
  5. blundeni

    blundeni Junior Member

    Jan 6, 2006
    21
    0
    Generally I agree with that - my complaint is not with the handling in Nadi - I expected that to be bad, or with the flight cancellation itself - it happens - we had a viable alternative I'm OK with that.

    Where I really have issues, and where I think that PB / Virgin let themsleves down badly was how they handled this at the Sydney end.

    Bearing in mind that at the very least Virgin staff had at least 5 hours to orgainise their response - some would say longer as they knew that the BNE flight had been cancelled for at least 20 hours, what they managed to come up with was disgraceful....
     
  6. N860CR

    N860CR Established Member

    Nov 30, 2004
    3,255
    672
    Brisbane & Sydney
    That is true. A few months ago I was in KL and was travelling with Air Asia. Anyway, flight was delayed 6 hours and I ended up well and truely missing my connection and was stranded for the night (In a foreign country also so there was also a bit of an immigration issue).

    Airline did absolutley nothing so I was up for the hotel bill and the cost of rebooking my connection.

    It's painful, but that's the way of the future for air travel.
     
  7. Commuter

    Commuter Active Member

    Jun 14, 2006
    793
    3
    #7 Commuter, Jun 26, 2006
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2006
    I have sympathy for the thread starter - even though Virgin Blue / Pacific Blue are LCCs, they should still treat their 'guests' properly and be more organised and give correct information.

    Also, I know this is not the primary issue that Blundeni has, but NAN staff not being able to handle check-in properly? Pacific Blue should have given them adequate training. It's part of their generalised "syndrome" of lack of proper training that is so widespread in their 'customer service' side of things.

    I may sound harsh, but I am sick of being treated badly by Virgin Blue (especially being treated like a moron). On one occasion I was delayed for hours at MEL - while being told that the delay was only an hour because the inbound aircraft has left SYD. If I remember correctly, the aircraft was still on the ground in PER (or it had just left PER)!! When I questioned them, they insisted that it was coming from SYD. There was not even much apology and they only gave this "false" location away when they were questioned, not voluntarily disclosing it, except that they kept insisting that we were going to be delayed just an hour. I think it was delayed for 5 hours+ in the end.


    I think if Virgin is to attract business customers properly, they need to do much better.

    Blundeni - As far as I know, the weather at BNE was OK yesterday. Unless there was something nasty enroute, I can't figure out what this alleged weather problem at BNE was.
     
  8. guy

    guy Junior Member

    Jan 9, 2005
    12
    0
    SYDNEY
    Well true thats the way of the carriers now, I remember when I was a youth (30 years ago) our whole family flew to BNE from AKL on NZ, o the return the flight was delayed by a day or so (DC8 engine problem) they had to fly a spare over from Auckland, we were all put in a really good hotel in BNE and everything on the house incl drinks by the pool!!!! Guess the tickets must have been very expensive!!!!!! MUm and dad dumped us in the spare room and disappeared for a few days C/- NZ (Teal in those days)
     
  9. oz_mark

    oz_mark Enthusiast

    Jun 30, 2002
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    Not covered by insurance?
     
  10. bravoecho1

    bravoecho1 Member

    Sep 10, 2004
    221
    0
    OOL
    We went to Fiji last year to get married. As my then future sister-in-law worked for Virgin, all our guests expected to be travelling PB to NAN.

    What no one expected was her recommendation to book QF/FJ as she was always rebooking pax on cancelled flights to and from NAN.

    Sure enough when we were leaving NAN, there were a lot of pissed off PB pax wandering around the terminal complaining about their flight being cancelled and not being told.
     
  11. Nightwatchman

    Nightwatchman Junior Member

    Jun 16, 2006
    37
    0
    This episode makes a bit of a mockery of their advertising campaign which claims they are completely customer focussed, and see every passenger as an individual (thinking about those ads where there is only one seat and passenger on a plane).
     
  12. Yada Yada

    Yada Yada Established Member

    Dec 6, 2004
    1,872
    7
    1F
    blundeni - sorry to hear about your experience. :(

    I had a simlar bad experience a few years ago in the USA - a delayed flight which led to a missed connection, having to stay the night, a problem getting into a hotel, having to turn up at the crack of dawn the next morning with no clue as to what flight they would put me on. And this was with AA!

    However it was only happening to me. I'd be upset if I had the kids with me as you did.

    It can happen with any airline, and QF is not immune from it. My boss had a horror story earlier this year with SQ in BKK - a problem with the plane meant that they had to get off, and those with lounge access were encouraged to go back there. A smaller replacement plane was organised and left with their luggage but without them - they were literally forgotten and left behind in the lounge, and had to spend the night there. The hotel arrangements were handled badly too.

    Once something goes wrong with air travel, it all unravels pretty quickly and often gets worse. Unless the airline has a spare aircraft and crew ready to go, which is rare, you end up waiting around to get on board some other scheduled flight. The airline obviously cannot bump other pax off those flights to get stranded pax home, so it becomes a waiting game.

    Nonethless I often wonder why airlines do not deploy someone on the ground with the authority to create a small customer care team to look after the stranded pax including finding hotels and ensuring everyone is looked after.

    Hopefully your complaint will be handled well.
     
  13. Philip76

    Philip76 Junior Member

    Jun 6, 2006
    22
    0
    Either they want to run an airline or they don't. Charging very slightly lower prices does not give an airline an excuse to refuse to provide explanations to inconvenienced passengers. It certainly does not give it the right to leave passengers stranded because of apparently arbitrary changes to flight schedules. If the airline does not provide the carriage specified in the ticket (which in this case was a return to the Brisbane international terminal) then it has breached the contract and should refund the fare.

    No airline operating in Australia can run the 'discount airline' excuse anymore. They could have when they were competing with 'full service' airlines on the same routes, but when they are the only airline on a route (not necessarily Fiji, but certainly a lot of domestic routes) they have no excuse for failing to serve their customers, unless they want to see people either stop taking holidays or turn to charter flights, driving or even marine travel.
     
  14. NM

    NM
    Moderator

    Aug 27, 2004
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    Even having a spare aircraft available does not always help. In my AA experience on MIA-LAX a few weeks ago (which I have outlined on AFF in another thread), AA had another 763 available and the same crew operated. But by the time we flew our short MIA-MIA sector, waited while the fire brigade checked us over, determined the repair was going to take a long time, moved baggage from broken aircraft to new aircraft, catered new aircraft etc, we ended up 3 hours late into LAX so even my planned generous 3 hour connection had gone pear shaped.
     
  15. JohnK

    JohnK Veteran Member

    Mar 22, 2005
    40,244
    8,714
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    Bottom line is the answer. Customer care, if it ever existed with airlines, does not exist anymore.

    These are the types of jobs that we have seen/will see disappear as airlines are forever looking at increasing their profits and looking for ways at paying the next executive bonus.
     
  16. Groundfeeder

    Groundfeeder Active Member

    Nov 3, 2005
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    Brisbane
    There are a couple of crap TV doco's regularly shown how staff deal with these issues - mainly EasyJet in UK.

    Bottom line is don't expect anything from LCC's.
     
  17. dajop

    dajop Senior Member

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  18. Yada Yada

    Yada Yada Established Member

    Dec 6, 2004
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    #18 Yada Yada, Jun 27, 2006
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2006
    For those following this thread but who may not have looked at recent posts in the Trip Reports section of AFF, click here to read an account of a very similar story regarding Australian Airlines and Qantas.

    It can happen to any airline.
     
  19. one9

    one9 Active Member

    Sep 14, 2005
    593
    8
    this post describes a flight booked with australian airlines, which is also a discount air carrier.

    in general you get what you pay for.

    you can not expect to have the same level of service and the same amount of staff assisting when a problem arises with a budget airline compared with a non budget airline.
     
  20. aspro2

    aspro2 Member

    Nov 26, 2004
    175
    1
    MEL
    I'm sorry to be blunt, but I really think both of those claims are rubbish.

    Passengers on any flight, "budget" or not, can be paying more than passengers on a flight on another carrier. What you pay for an airline ticket is irrelevant (at least within the same nominal class), as the whole monetary value of any given ticket is largely arbitrary.

    Regardless of the airline you fly, the airline has a moral duty of care to its passengers. There are so-called LCCs that outperform "normal" carriers and of course vice versa. The limits of an airline's actual obligations vary from contract to contract, jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but differ very little (if at all) between different types of carrier. Furthermore, good business sense means an airline which wants customers (and Virgin is only barely "budget" and definitely desperate for customers) -- except the Ryanair absolute bucket-scraping lowest-conceivable-fare-and-service type of passenger who regularly revels in a tuppence ticket -- regularly encounters customer service issues which could be dealt with efficiently and with a minimum of additional cost-to-satisfaction tradeoff.
     
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