Did Chris Hill’s mother and aunt have a bad flight on Virgin Atlantic? Without a doubt. The flight attendants were rude and the service was terrible, by their account.

Did Virgin Atlantic respond appropriately to their grievance? No, without a doubt. In fact, it didn’t respond at all.

I’ve been on countless Virgin Atlantic flights and have never seen anything like this. But I guess there’s a first time for everything.

Hill explains:

On my mum and aunt’s return home flight from Miami to London, they were not given pillows and blankets – while several passengers around them had two sets of pillows and blankets, the flight attendants failed to attempt to ask any of them if they would give up their second set, and instead one of them told them in a frosty manner that there was nothing they could do.

OK, not good. But it happens. That’s not all, though …

Also, they failed to provide them with a choice of meal, having run out of options.

Again, that’s not uncommon, and the flight attendants aren’t necessarily responsible.

The flight attendant slammed down the food on my mum’s tray and told her ‘it’s that or nothing.’

Now they’ve crossed the line.

My mom politely responded that she didn’t want the meal that had been dumped in front of her, yet the flight attendant left it there on her tray anyway.

My mum fell asleep while everyone else was eating, and woke several hours later to find the food still on the tray in front of her, long after everyone elses’ trays had been cleared. She actually had to call a flight attendant to come and remove it.

Nothing says “we don’t care” like a tray of unwanted food left in front of you for a few hours.

While the nature of these complaints may be considered trivial in comparison to passenger complaints regarding lost baggage or financial suffering, it’s my firm belief that if a company cannot satisfactorily address the small things, then how on earth can they be expected to handle the bigger problems?

And no matter, what the reason for the complaint, if a customer takes the time to write to them, they should at least receive a personal response, be it an apology, a promise to do better or whatever may be the appropriate recourse.

I agree.

I suggested Hill contact Virgin Atlantic in writing, offering a few tips on how to craft an effective complaint letter. That was back in May. He sent an email and a follow-up email to Virgin, both of which apparently were ignored.

Now, it’s possible that Virgin was just busy. Or it may have read his first problem and dismissed it, or it may have gotten to the second issue and then decided this wasn’t even worth a form response.

It doesn’t matter: Virgin should have at least sent back a canned apology. Both of these passengers, after all, were frequent fliers.

I contacted Virgin on Hill’s behalf. Yesterday, it responded:

The effect of the Icelandic volcano had a big impact on us and our priority, at that time, was the repatriation of passengers. Subsequently, this influenced our normal day-to-day workload. I am not excusing the delay; simply offering an apology and explanation for the postponed response.

I was concerned to hear about the way you feel you were treated by our cabin crew on your journey to London. I can imagine how upsetting this was for you, and I’m truly sorry. When our crew are busy serving drinks and food at the start of the flight, they’ve obviously got a lot on their plate, but this is no excuse for them being rude or inattentive – and they certainly should of taken the time to find a pillow for both of you! Our crew are trained to be helpful, warm and professional at all times – clearly this wasn’t the case in your situation.

In addition, I’m sorry to hear of the lack of meal choice. We keep a close eye on what meals are proving most popular so we can try and make sure we’ve always got enough of them. But sometimes it’s impossible to guess how many people are going to pick a particular meal and we do run out. Luckily this is very rare, but I’m sorry you missed out on a choice this time. I’ve let our catering team know about this so that we can adjust our calculations.

As a further apology, I’ve taken the liberty of crediting each of your flying club accounts with 8,000 miles. I hope this gesture goes some way to make up for the disappointment.

In closing, I would like to thank you for choosing to fly with Virgin Atlantic. I hope we’ll see you back on board again soon and I’m confident that we’ll be able to live up to your expectations.

That’s the response they should have gotten the first time they wrote to Virgin Atlantic.

(Photo: Simon sees/Flickr Creative Commons)