Did Virgin Atlantic do enough for Joyce Chang? All she wanted was a ride to the airport and to relax in its lounge, a privilege for which she and a friend shelled out $800.
But the car never showed up, she didn’t get to spend much time in the lounge, and now she wants her money back. Is she entitled to anything?
Chang’s problem, experienced on a recent flight from San Francisco to London, is a cautionary tale about optics. Something that looks like a solid case at first can fall apart under scrutiny — and additional details from a company.
But it still leaves open a question: Did Virgin do enough for this passenger?
Chang and her travel companion purchased a service called Guest List, which allows commoners to experience the ground-service products normally offered to Upper Class passengers.
The Telegraph, a British newspaper, describes the amenities:
It begins with a private chauffeur-driven transfer to the airport, after which point Guest List passengers departing from London are permitted to use Upper Class check-in facilities and to fast-track security. Luggage will be tagged as Upper Class and be prioritised for offloading after landing. Similar benefits are available from other airports.
Thereafter, Guest List passengers can use the Virgin Clubhouse – the airline’s lounge facilities. The Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse in Heathrow Terminal 3 was voted the world’s best airline lounge in the recent Ultratravel 100 awards; facilities there include a spa where complimentary treatments and haircuts are provided, a complimentary bar and full catering facilities.
Sounds decadent. Everyone should travel like that.
I can’t blame Chang for buying into this. And all looked well right up until the day before her departure, when she received a confirmation call for her limousine.
“No driver showed,” she remembers. “I called Virgin and after being kept waiting on the phone for over 15 minutes, was told that there was a miscommunication, no driver would be coming by.”
With the clock ticking, Chang had to move fast. She made alternate arrangements to get to the airport, where she barely made her flight. No time to enjoy the club, for which she’s paid a handsome sum. Disappointing.
“This was our first experience flying with Virgin and we were extremely upset that Virgin was such an inept company,” she says.
Fortunately, the program worked on their way back to the States. But Chang wonders if she deserves a partial, if not a full, refund. That’s a good question.
“I am not happy or satisfied with this entire experience and therefore am requesting a full refund to my credit card,” she told me.
Our advocacy team was all over this case. It appeared Virgin had taken $800 and delivered only half a product. At least it could refund $400, right?
Well, no. Virgin responded to our request and explained its side of the story. Not only had the airline offered to cover the cost of her taxi to the airport in San Francisco, but it also offered the Guest List service on her return flight. She’d only paid for one way.
Chang disputed this account. She says she paid for round trip Guest List privileges. She also noted the offer to cover her taxi was meaningless, since she took advantage of a first-time discount from Uber that left her with a bill of just pennies.
It’s a classic “she said/he said.” Virgin’s published rates for Guest List seem to corroborate its version. And since we can’t definitively tell who is right, Virgin wins by default. But it’s also a reminder that a case that look airtight may, in fact, not be when a company chimes in. We’re also left to ask if Virgin did enough to compensate this unhappy customer?