Re: the Virgin America “gotcha” game….
I am a vice president of a company and a seasoned “road warrior” with considerable experience flying with some of the best airlines in the world (and a few of the worst). I am also fortunate enough to be one of those “favored fliers” coveted by most airlines, as I usually purchase my first class seat/s, rather than upgrade, etc.
A fan of Virgin Atlantic for many years, I had been eager to fly the new Virgin America. In October 2007 I purchased (2) two First Class seats to fly from LA to New York for New Years. Due to unfortunate circumstances, I was unable to make the trip. As a courtesy and matter of habit, I phoned into Virgin America to notify the airline that I would not be making the trip. I was informed that an email would be sent to follow the call. To my knowledge, I never received this email, but thought nothing of it at the time.
A couple of weeks ago, I contacted Virgin America to make a new reservation for two, in First Class (considerably more expensive now). I gave the confirmation number of my original flight to use towards the new tickets, only to be told that there was NO credit on file for this former reservation. Inquiring further into this mystery… I was told that no record was found on their side that this reservation had been cancelled prior to departure. I conveyed that I had in fact done so, but still didn’t understand how this was relevant. Alas, I was told further that if either I had not cancelled the reservation prior to departure (or no record was found of such) that the entire fare amount was FORFEITED!
I was told that this forfeiture information was in their “Fare Rules”, and that there was nothing else that could be offered other than crediting me “1/2 of the total fare or the Guest Services agent would “get in trouble”.
I must confess that I am not one to read the fine print when purchasing a full fare First Class ticket/s. No airline known to me in the USA has such an absurd policy which penalizes passengers with a 100% loss (or anything close) of the fare/money spent. It is certainly way out of the norm with other US airline policies. At most, one can usually expect a nominal change fee of some amount, and even that is usually limited to restricted economy tickets, and other very restricted fares.
I had scanned originally, and have since reread, the email confirmation I received from Virgin America and NO mention is made of this policy under “Rules and Restrictions”. (I have since been able to find this policy / practice only in the “fine print” of their website.)
One can only imagine that I’m not the first to be snagged into this trap thus far. To be told that I’ve lost $2400.00 because no record (conveniently) was found of a reservation cancellation, that I didn’t even know I was supposed to have made… (but in fact actually had in this case).
There is no question in my mind that this weighty penalty is a deceptive loophole buried in the fine print of your fare rules. One could certainly deduce that Virgin America has intentionally done so to the peril of unsuspecting customers, who must be expected to swallow it and move on. Virgin America must also further anticipate that they will not see these customers again as a result, and that this loss of repeat customers is acceptable.
I feel robbed quite frankly, and I cannot compare this experience with any other short of literally being robbed. It is certainly a story worth telling to others considering flying Virgin America.
I did direct my complaint to the Vice President per the Customer Care Department’s recommendation, in writing. No response or resolution has been offered to date!