Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Virgin Airlines in Delhi, How I Hate Thee

I am now in London, and my sister is safe and sound in the States. Each and every Virgin employee refused to read the Articles I've highlighted and gave me the company line: delays due to weather conditions do not require Virgin to put anyone up in a hotel for more than one night. Even when I pointed out that my situation is different because I have a confirmed outgoing flight that is more than 48 hours away and my flight is international, no one seemed to care.

The problem with Virgin is that no one except one main manager seems to have any authority to do anything. Unless you get in touch with the main manager, each and every other employee seems to do his or her best to actively inconvenience you. For example, when I landed in Heathrow, the first employee at the Virgin counter told me no flights were being scheduled, so I would have to stick to my original departure date of Dec 26 to SFO. (This was actually an improvement over the Virgin employee I first talked to when I came to Delhi's airport--she told me I shouldn't have showed up because no flights were leaving to London that day. I later got a flight to London after speaking to the top manager and explaining the Virgin employee who came to the hotel told me I would be able to fly out that day.)

In London, I asked a Virgin employee about a hotel, and she referred me to another desk. I went to the desk, located in a different building, but that desk was empty. The second Virgin person I spoke to at a different counter told me Virgin would not put me in any hotel because all hotels were booked. His direct manager said the same thing. I finally got in touch with someone who appeared to be the very top Virgin manager. After just a minute of hearing my situation, this top level manager told the Virgin employee to put me in a hotel overnight and get me out on another flight as soon as possible. Then, within ten minutes, the employee who said that I couldn't get an earlier departure time or get a hotel because all of them were booked offered me a hotel (though only for one night) and a new flight leaving on Dec 23. Unbelievable.

Also, it turns out that the idiots at Virgin's Delhi operations actually wrote in my PNR or flight data information sheet that I had agreed to pay 75 pounds to get them to change my flight details. Outright lies.

The airline industry is the worst-run major business in the world. Anytime employees don't read their own rules carefully; have no discretion to assist customers fully without someone else's approval; and actually have disincentives to assist customers to get something done, disaster and fraud await.

Also, I just found out that a fellow traveller from Delhi, the last person there on Dec 19, managed to speak to the head of Delhi airport and get back to the States on Continental Airlines the same night. Virgin's Delhi employees have treated its passengers differently based on a random set of factors and engaged in a pattern of either negligent or intentional misrepresentations. First they told us they couldn't get us on other airlines, and I've personally spoken to three people leaving on partner airlines (all of the three people who got to leave stayed the longest and complained persistently). Then Virgin's Delhi employees told us they had no obligation to put us in a hotel at all, which is false. (After I was in the airport for 7 hours, they put me and others in a hotel, but failed to tell the hotel that they were paying for my stay for more than one night, even though they had booked me to leave a whopping six days later--which they said was the only confirmed outgoing flight from Delhi to London at that time.)

Finally, a London Virgin operations employee told me that Virgin had no hotels available, but then offered me a hotel after a high level manager intervened. Unfortunately, Virgin offered me a hotel for only one night even though my new flight is scheduled to leave on December 23--two nights from now. What the heck am I supposed to do on December 22, I asked? Virgin's London operations didn't seem to care one bit. I managed to get accommodations on my own for two nights.

One last thing: several Virgin employees in Delhi would not provide me with their names. At my Delhi hotel, outside in a public area, I took a picture of the only Virgin employee I saw to have some way of identifying her, and she hounded me for the next several hours, demanding I delete her picture. When she ran into me prior to my departure at the gate, she actually tried to withhold my passport, causing me to snatch it out of her hand to get it. When I asked for her manager, she refused to get her manager immediately, saying she was busy. (Of course I had to get through the gate and couldn't wait.) I asked for her name before I would delete her picture, and she refused to give me her name. (I deleted her picture later on, after I was on my way to Heathrow.)

Names on Virgin's Delhi employee badges are in ten point font and difficult to see. Yet all the badges have the following meaningless words in large, bold font: "Vanil Upto." It's as if Virgin's India employees want to avoid easy ways for passengers to hold them responsible later on. The "best" part? The Virgin employee who showed up on December 21 didn't recognize the name of the Virgin employee who came on December 20 to the hotel to provide us with information. And she wondered why I wanted her name for identification purposes. She had told me Virgin would cover my entire hotel stay once I got to London, which turned out to be false. What a disaster Virgin has turned out to be. Still, I give props to Virgin's top level manager at Heathrow, who managed to help me get an earlier flight to SFO. Thank you, good sir.

No comments: