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I'll never fly Virgin Blue again! What a debacle!

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rormad

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My company (largish multinational) had decided to save us some money by booking us on Virgin Blue (DJ) when bookings were made on short notice. After quite a few less-than-ideal experiences I managed to ensure I did not travel DJ for 12 months until this weekend just gone. I attended a conference at the Gold Coast where the company must have secured some deal to send large numbers of delegates on DJ. Strangely enough a colleague had been booked on Qantas to fly at the same time. He didn't know why but yesterday (24 Feb) he would have been thanking his lucky stars.

We had an uneventful flight up from SYD - things only started to go pear-shaped on the return leg. Four of us arrived at about 515pm for a 615 flight (DJ 524) and checked in. Knowing we would starve on board we went to the Rainbow Bay Ale House and quickly shoved down a (surprisingly) tasty meal in lieu of Qantas Club. It had been pouring rain all day and we noticed rising rivers on the way to Coolangatta. A banner message appeared on the flight information screen which said that due to local weather conditions a flight from Adelaide had been prevented from landing and was delayed 30 minutes. As a consequence our flight was delayed 30 minutes - they proposed magically turning this flight around in 30 minutes. At this time they started making announcements to the same effect. Concurrently the Qantas screen indicated something similar was happening to one of their flights. Fifteen minutes later it was announced that the DJ flight had been diverted to Brisbane to refuel. It would then proceed to OOL and take us on to Sydney. We worked out that it would have to do it pretty quickly to beat the SYD curfew. Around the same time Qantas announced that their flight had been diverted to BNE as well. Within 5 minutes Qantas announced that coaches would take the delayed passengers to BNE to make their connection. Silence from DJ.

In the next 1.5 hours we were assured once only that the flight would still come and get us from BNE but still hadn't left there. A DJ flight from elsewhere landed which would become the 8pm (and last) flight to SYD. We were not advised any space was available. Had I not checked luggage I would have tried to change flights but we stuck together in vain hope. Then after 2 hours they announced that due to the curfew the flight would be cancelled and we should proceed to the "information desk". An enormous line formed at a counter with two staff who we supposed were booking us into hotels for the night. After about 5 minutes of people becoming more agitated we were told to gather round for an announcement. We were informed that we would fly out at 705 the next morning and to be back here at 620. We should find our own accommodation. Many in the crowd got fired up and demanded why they weren't being given rooms for the night. The arrogant DJ OIC said that weather wasn't their fault and so it was up to us. Of course that made everyone really happy about the lack of information up to this point. Had we known it would be cancelled we could have tried to get on the other flight or gone back to our hotel. We decided to split the scene before the rest of the passengers realised we wouldn’t get anywhere arguing and tried to get a taxi. Of course there were none there but they soon appeared. Booked into a cheapish nearby hotel at our company’s expense but I felt for the tourists who had to find and pay their own way – some of the Japanese would have been completely bewildered.
We turned up the next morning with plenty of time and had breakfast at the café (also good) knowing we’d starve on DJ – unless their customer service department had decided to do something to make up for their inconveniencing us. On check-in the young woman said she had just arrived and knew nothing of our ordeal. To our vast amusement we noticed that our flight was still on the screen from last night with the same 645pm departure time. We went to our gate to board DJ 532 which didn’t appear on the screens. The screen at the gate said that it was DJ 508 and many passengers for that flight were trying to board. We boarded with our fellow refugees and the closest we came to any recompense was the flight officer telling us that the crew were working to get us home on their day off. Later they apologised for the weather but we didn’t even get offered a free cup of tea and were exhorted to peruse the wonderful items on their shopping list – (I noticed they now sell boring Virgin fridge magnets at $3 each – who buys these?). Again got delayed trying to get a gate on landing and then when our bags came on the carousel they were all soaking wet. Talk about insult plus insult plus insult to injury. To top it off we walked into airport chaos due to wet weather in Sydney – a 400 m queue for taxis! Not DJ’s fault but we should have been home the night before and avoided it. Luckily I’d parked in short-term and took 2 of my colleagues home.

All I can say from this is that Virgin Blue is totally hopeless and has no idea about customer service. The lack of information for passengers was the first problem. Second was the lack of a contingency plan (unlike Qantas). Third was the total denial of any responsibility for marooning us and fourth was the blatant disregard for our welfare and any act of recompense apart from a very half-hearted and half-assed apology.
As a result of my experience I will have a clause put in my contract that I am NOT to fly DJ ever again!
How should I take this up with DJ management, travel gurus? Love to hear your responses. This should be in the media. You get what you pay for I guess.
 

straitman

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As a result of my experience I will have a clause put in my contract that I am NOT to fly DJ ever again!
How should I take this up with DJ management, travel gurus? Love to hear your responses. This should be in the media. You get what you pay for I guess.
There are several avenues available.
1. Email customer service via the web site.
2. Look back a few months to one of the requests for information from a journalist and send it to one or several of them.
3. Don't fly Vermin again unless you are really desperate.

:evil: :twisted:
 

rormad

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Thanks for the feedback so far. I have sent my diatribe to the journo at the SMH who wrote the "bag Qantas" story last time. I commented that Virgin seems to get a dream run in the press while Qantas is usually seen as a villain. Well Qantas was the hero the other night!

I thought I'd send an email to Bryan "$80 million" Godfrey himself. Can't imagine that Big Dick reads emails - he's more an SMS sort of guy. Got his email address anyone?
 

willyroo

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Jan 14, 2003
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I agree DJ didn't handle things very well here, but they certainly aren't responsible for your costs if a flight is delayed or cancelled due to circumstances beyond their control - in this case bad weather. And the weather in south-east Queensland was atrocious that day.

That's what you have travel insurance for.

And you're going to need to send your complaint to Brett Godfrey... :)
 

thadocta

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Actually willyroo I beg to differ, and this is coming from someone who worked within the travel industry.....

If the carrier cannot carry you, it is THEIR responsibility to accommodate you or arrange alternative transport. Travel insurance is for occasions which could not be reasonably foreseen, and this sort of weather in S.E.QLD is something which is not abnormal, so therefore does not fall into the "not reasonably foreseen" category.

Events like 9/11/2001 would fall into insurers responsibility, but this case is clearly one where the carrier is liable. I would be taking it ALL THE WAY, as Vermin are clearly liable for the accommodation here. They had a responsibility to carry him, they did not do so due to circumstances they knew *might* happen (due to generic weather conditions) so they have a responsibility to make alternative arrangements.

Clearly not a situation for travel insurance, othrwise we would be looking at "Oh dear, do I have travel insurance? The airline sent my bag to Moscow rather than Albury, they won't have it back for another 96 hours. What will I do in the meantime?" Clearly a carrier liability rather than something to which insurance is there for.

Dave
 

arun

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I am not an expert. But I too believe that the passengers had the right to compensation in this case. Especially after acknowledging that there were delays due to bad weather and assured that it is only a delay and made the passengers wait for hours, you can not then turn around and say the flight is cancelled and can not pay for accommodation. I believe one could argue that while Qantas could organise alternate arrangements, why not DJ. Then it will come down to different practices - which are not outside the airline's control.

I suggest that you send a letter explaining the situation along with copies of taxi and accommodation receipts to Virgin. Ask them to reimburse the costs. Send it by registered post (they tend to take it seriously).

BTW, is there an ombudsman for airline industry here?
 

rormad

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I might fly Virgin Blue again...

Well some good news. Virgin Blue Customer Relations rang me today following my comments on their feedback site. Obviously had more than one complaint about this. Very apologetic and have offered me credit for that flight. He stressed that they want to hear about such events and want ot ensure that they don't ahppen again.
They won't pay for accommodation under the weather conditions Acts of God clause. I guess if I'd pushed and threatened they might have caved in but it wasn't my money so I didn't. I'll never get that time back so at least there is some monetary compensation. The credit can be used directly by me or the company but seeing as I was the one inconvenienced and not the company I think I have the right to use it. Of course then I have to go against what I said in the Subject title post "I'll never fly Virgin Blue again!" "By 1990 no child...."
Bouquet to Virgin for the follow up.
 

QF WP

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rormad, do you want Brett's email address?? I happen to know him well...I'm sure he would look at it with more than a passing glance. Let me know...
 

arun

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Well done rormad. It just shows that you need to make a point rather than going away quietly.
 

ethernet

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The C word. Failure to COMMUNICATE, and inc*mpetence, failure to deal with a Time Sensitive matter. By comparison the big Q got it right. It is expected that bad weather contingency is planned for.

One valid explanation is that they missed their time slot, or Sydney was being scabby in handing them out. The gem was info that QF was using a bus - they clearly thought there was an advantage, or knew turnaround times at a soaking airport were behind the success probability curve.

DJ should have been on the speakers, talking to those with urgent requirementa. The only thing that matters, is what have they learned, and how well they will react next time.

Although QF is not off the hook - bumping people into bogstar, and telling their operators to go dumb, has some wondering. Those held hostage in a QF plane because someone died, know that they are more than economical with truthful updates on turnaround times.
 

Lonely Flyer

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ethernet said:
The C word. Failure to COMMUNICATE, and inc*mpetence, failure to deal with a Time Sensitive matter. By comparison the big Q got it right. It is expected that bad weather contingency is planned for.

One valid explanation is that they missed their time slot, or Sydney was being scabby in handing them out. The gem was info that QF was using a bus - they clearly thought there was an advantage, or knew turnaround times at a soaking airport were behind the success probability curve.

DJ should have been on the speakers, talking to those with urgent requirementa. The only thing that matters, is what have they learned, and how well they will react next time.

Although QF is not off the hook - bumping people into bogstar, and telling their operators to go dumb, has some wondering. Those held hostage in a QF plane because someone died, know that they are more than economical with truthful updates on turnaround times.
Why ressurect this thread?
 

garyjohn951

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Jul 21, 2006
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I might add it happens on ALL airlines, as a few months back on QF30 from HKG to MEL, had to land at DRW for engine trouble.
1. told wouldn't take too long, in transit no Qpub.
2. should be fixed 2hrs.
3. not to worry 767 has been called from brisbane to take onwards ??? the 747 was full, who was to sit on wings, plus its 2+ hrs from Brisbane.
4. after 3 hrs, no 767, no idea on delay, they processed us thru customs.
5. 9 hrs later we left.
6. I was travelling in J and I later found out TWO domestic flights had left 2 hrs after we arrived HALF full.

So while I'm a qantas flyer, they can be as bad as others.
 

thadocta

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garyjohn951 said:
I might add it happens on ALL airlines, as a few months back on QF30 from HKG to MEL, had to land at DRW for engine trouble.
6. I was travelling in J and I later found out TWO domestic flights had left 2 hrs after we arrived HALF full.
Since you were on an international flight, the issue here might have been the lack of staff at DRW to provide customs and immigration processing to allow you to enter Australia, which if C&I could not be handled at DRW would preclude you from using the domestic flights. Not really QF's fault there.

Dave
 

SF&

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Lindsay Wilson said:
rormad, do you want Brett's email address?? I happen to know him well...I'm sure he would look at it with more than a passing glance. Let me know...
I can't blve they didn't offer accomm for all, I have missed connecting flihgts here in Australia and OS and been offered high quality accomm and food and drink vouchers.... through one world airlines and qantas and rex.
Mainly the weather was at fault and only once in Ayers Rock i have a had a plane breakdown and i was shifted on to another floght just a longer trip home.
 

thadocta

Active Member
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SF& said:
I can't blve they didn't offer accomm for all, I have missed connecting flihgts here in Australia and OS and been offered high quality accomm and food and drink vouchers.... through one world airlines and qantas and rex.
Mainly the weather was at fault and only once in Ayers Rock i have a had a plane breakdown and i was shifted on to another floght just a longer trip home.
r33l k00l sp33k th3r3 m4n, lurv that l33t sp33k.

(Could you please at least ATTEMPT to have correct spelling and grammar in your posts! Thanks)

Dave
 

thadocta

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serfty said:
OT: Long night Dave? ;)
Nah, just that the only person who could away with a post like the one I quoted is NM. :mrgreen:

Dave
 
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