Monday 13 May 2013

Virgin Atlantic Has Restored My Faith in Airline Customer Service

My next few posts I'll be highlighting parts of my vacation. Some posts will be simple, others will be long (like this one), and some will be just photographs. Now, I know a few of you arn't the biggest fans of vacation posts so, I promise to keep out the cheesy pictures of my feet in the sand. Actually, no I won't. :P


Remember when TWA was the top airline in customer service? I don't. Actually, I did fly TWA when I was a wee one. The only thing I remember, since most of that time was spent nose first in the courtesy barf bag, was that passengers always applauded when the plane landed. My mom however, remembers TWA back when it was king of the sky. It was a time when flying was a luxury and it was fun. Unfortunately, when the company went belly up, customer service and the whole unique flying experienced died with it.  

Since then, I've done a bit of traveling and have had my share of flight delays, cancellations, damaged luggage, stolen items, and lost bags. And when my bags aren't the very last ones to tumble down the carousel, they've missed the connection flight. I remember a trip to the US few years ago. I was with my kids and we arrived at Dulles, exhausted, and cranky, only to find out our bags were lost. It took AIR FRANCE FIVE days to find and deliver our luggage. You know what I got for compensation? A care kit. You know, the ones with a comb, mini toothbrush, toothpaste, one-time use deodorant and socks. Because, nothing says 'we're sorry we fucked up and lost your bags' like an ugly pair of unisize socks. It's sad the number of times my bags have been delayed. Then, there was the time I was sick on the plane, suffering from Ménière disease, which is a nasty middle ear viral infection that causes spinning vertigo, hearing loss and tinnitus. Basically, every time I turned my head, my world would go into a spin and make me throw up. Anyway, the whole flight was a nightmare and a few hours before landing in Paris, I asked the flight attendant if I could lie down. I was dehydrated, dizzy, and on the verge of passing out. You'd think that on a commercial airline, the plane would be equipped with a cot or some kind of drop-down bed for passenger with medical issues. Well, it was my luck that nothing like that was available so the flight crew laid me on the floor in between cabin sections. Worst flight ever, except for maybe the time I flew to California. That plane did an emergency landing in Texas due to problems with the plane's hydraulic system. And I wonder why I have visions of planes crashing to the ground in a fiery ball of Hell fire. 

Needless to say, I'm not a fan of flying. However, my tumultuous heart and fear of flying seems to have been quieted thanks to my recent flight over to the US. I had planned a family vacation, was on a tight budget, and needed to get four people from ParisFrance to OrlandoFlorida. For the first time, I chose to travel with Virgin Atlantic Airlines. And guess what? I actually enjoyed my flight. That hasn’t happen since I was . . . 

It all started in Manchester. While waiting to board the plane, all the kids received a tote bag that could be converted to a backpack. Inside were an activities booklet, Virgin baseball cap, a small digital watch, a pen, and a book. So, lesson number 1: you want happy passengers and parents flying on your plane? Give their kids gifts that keep them quiet and occupied. 

 Like the plastic, stylized purple utensils  
I stole found in my carry-on? (; I do.
Remember when airline cutlerly used to be metal? 

Then, there was the food. I felt like I was fed stuffed for 8 hours straight. Right after take-off we were served drinks with cheese pretzels (nomnommnom). Then, dinner was served and holy kazoo-playing zombies, it was edible! I had the Butter Chicken with mixed Basmati Rice, Caesar salad with Parmesan cheese and croûtons. And then we finished it off with Gü dessert. I have no idea what Gü is, only that it tastes better than it sounds. Anyway, I was tickled the food was so good because my previous experiences have been mostly THIS. Anyway, lesson number two: keep passengers happy by keeping their bellies filled and not charging them for a damn soda, ahem--FLYBE! 

Feel Good Kit: Eye cover, toothbrush, toothpaste,
pen, ear plugs, charity donation card, ugly unisize socks.

On the trip back from Orlando, each passenger received an amenities "Feel Good Kit." I wasn't impressed over the contents of the kit (airlines still have a love affair with unisized socks that I will never understand), but what impressed me was that each passenger in economy class received a kit. Rejoice! Everyone gets ugly socks! Note, if you want me to "feel good" pack the kit with gummy bears since the other stuff is probably illegal to have on-board. :P

As for the entertainment, everyone had their own individual touch screen which is pretty standard now on international flights. They had a decent selection of movies, TV series, music, games, and everything you could think of to entertain the kids. And, guess what? The headsets were FREE and they worked! Did you hear that US AIRWAYS?

In the end, what I appreciated the most (aside from not dying in a horrible explosion and having parts of my body scattered for miles over the Atlantic Ocean), was finding our luggage waiting for us next to the carousel when we arrived in Orlando got through US Customs in Orlando. And, when we arrived in Paris, our bags (all 4 of them) were almost the first to come down the carousel--in one piece!

Though I still can't say I love flying, I can say that this trip has tamed some of my apprehension of air travel. Is Virgin Atlantic perfect? No. But Air France, KLM, United, Delta, US Airways and many others can go back to airplane school and take serious notes at what Sir Richard Branson has manage to do with Virgin Airlines in only a few years time. And if you want to read a fun post about Richard Branson, visit Michael Offutt’s post HERE.

So in conclusion, I want to say to Sir Richard Branson and Virgin Atlantic Airlines, thank you. Thank you for restoring my faith in air travel and airline customer service. Keep it up and you'll have a loyal customer for life. But for crap's sake, lose the damn unisize socks!  


  1. I can relate to far too much of this as we travel a lot as well. We try to avoid Ryanair (which I believe to be the bottom of the worst) and we also have our favorite, the one that always restores our faith, but probably flies the wrong way for you as they take all their flights through Dubai -and that is Emirates. Should we ever go trans-atlatnic, we will give Virgin Atlantic a try and tell them Elise sent us :)


  2. It's sad how grateful we are nowadays for basic human decency on flights :P

    Glad you had a good flight. My fave airlines so far have been Malaysian and Emirates. Awesome airlines.

  3. Rhonda: I'd never fly Ryanair either. I bet you must have the craziest stories about air travel. I'll keep Emirates in mind if I ever fly out that way. I hope I do!

    Trisha: It is sad. Unfortunately, I haven't had the chance to fly far east, but hopefully one day I will and I'll keep those two airline companies in mind. (:

  4. Next time I fly across the Atlantic I'll remember them. (I've had good experiences with British Airways as well. And don't laugh, but I still have my socks from the last trip.)
    Glad your experience was better this time. Nothing worse than lost luggage. Except flying itself. (Not a fan either.)

  5. More importantly: what were you doing in Orlando? Disney? Harry Potter? I hope you had a great time, Elise!

  6. Welcome home to God's Wine Country :)

    PS... How did Mini-Alex do in First Class... was the service terribly wooden?

  7. I've never done an international flight, and that sounds like a good thing. How you described their care seems like common sense to me, but maybe it's not so common.

  8. Never gone international either, but you actually found an airline that was good? Wow, thought it was a myth haha

  9. I've always liked flying. Not done so in a while now. Our family always used Virgin to fly from Britain to Florida and always had good things to say about the flights. We always found Air Canada and British Airways to be pretty good.


  10. I've never flow Virgin, but I flew Lufthansa from Moscow to Germany, then Germany to Boston, and was very impressed with their customer service. No individual touch screens or purple utensils, but still, very nice.

  11. I'm no fan of flying either-- for many of the same reasons you mentioned. What a difference it can make to have an attentive airline. I'll remember them next time!

  12. Did you fly first class? From the pic of the seat it looks like first class. I love the details you've given me for Virgin Atlantic. I think they'll make it into a story.

  13. I have a theory...companies are always better when there is a CEO who owns it rather than a board. Sir Richard is the boss and his company is his baby. All those others places don't have a personal touch ( or a person to hold accountable) and can blame every crappy thing they do to us on "the board".

    I must say, I think those red socks rock!

  14. Gad your experience was positive.

  15. Seems like you've had your fair share of "bad flying experiences"... seems like lots of airlines need to address their customer service policy!
    At least you had a pleasant experience this time round!

  16. I love flying Virgin. Also Asiana Air has amazing service!

  17. Wow, I've never received any kind of care package on a flight. I've experienced my share of nightmare flights. The exact same thing happened to us when we flew to Greece. They lost out bags for three days and we got that terrible comfort kit. I see that you are posting a "non writing related topic" lol. I see what you mean. I guess the reason for the second blog is because it would be TOO many non related topics for my blog. Thanks for visiting my second blog.

  18. Glad it was such a pleasant experience. We flew Virgina couple times over in Europe and it was very nice. Of course it was right after 9/11 and tourism was down and everyone was fighting for customers.

    I will NEVER fly US Airways again. NEVER. I don't care how much I have to pay or if I have to miss the trip. It's not worth my life.

  19. Alex: Well, I know what to get you for your birthday, unisocks!

    Matthew: We hit Disney and Sea World. I'm hoping to hit HP when the kids are a little older. It was a lot of fun though. (:

    Mark: LOL! Mini-Alex was so bad! I just couldn't keep a handle on him. Plus, he kept hitting on the flight attendants and throwing his ninja stars all over the place.

    Melanie: It all comes down to money and profit. I cost more to provide a higher quality of customer service and care. Sad but ture.

    Patt: LOL, me too!

    Jo: Sounds like you need to plan a trip! (:

    M.J. I don't think I've flown Luft. but I'm sure the purple utensils make all the difference. (;

    Julie: Thanks Julie. That kind of thinking can be applied to so many different kinds of jobs and companies. An attentive team is one that cares, and usually that means you get higher quality for your money.

    Michael: No I flew economy. The chair you see is actually the one here in my office. I looks nice in the photo but it really is a piece of crap. Folks in first class get a much nicer amenities kit and stuff like pre-take off glass of champagne, a totally different menu, and hand towels moistened in warm lemon water to wipe your hands with after the meal. But all this really depends on the airline, who knows what else they get. . . .

    Elizabeth: Good point. I think you may be right. And I will gladly mail you my socks! No joke!!:D

    Sheena-kay: Me too. (:

    Michelle: I really was nice this time around. Too bad they don't fly to South Africa. (: Or maybe they do?

    Johanna: I've never flown with Asiana Air, but if I ever have the opportunity, I'll give them a try. (:

    Melissa: Those care kits are just add insult to injury. I enjoyed visiting your second home on the blogosphere, can't wait to see it grow!

    Sara: Nor will I. I rather walk than take US Airways.

  20. A pleasant flight can be worth a fortune. Glad you had one. Do we get to see you in the socks?

  21. On the plus side you got good service. On the negative side they did make you go to Manchester. It all evens out in the end.


  22. Having ones nose stuck in an airsick back pretty much sums up my flying experiences, too. I can't stand to fly and get nervous just going to the airport....yeah, I have issues, I know :)

    Glad you had a pleasant experience and I'm looking forward to hearing more about how the great state of Florida treated you all :)

  23. Happy to hear you had a good flight. I so rarely hear that nowadays. And purple cutlery is kind of cool!

  24. I know exactly what you mean about service and it's disappearance. Glad you had a good time on this vacation. I like flying, and I love vacation posts and photos.

    I prepared my own goodie bags with things to do for our kids when they were small and we traveled by air. They had their own backpacks too!

  25. Jeff: Oh, don't make me do it. LOL! (:

    At least they had a variety of shops in Manchester to help pass the time. That and a relatively comfy seating area for much needed napping.

    Mark: I even get sick in the car if the roads are bad enough. Motion sickness is the pits. And Florida was great. Wish I could have packed the sun and brought it home with me though. (:

    Christine: I agree, it is rare these days.

    D.G: I do the same thing when traveling with my kids. They each have their special backpack with fun stuff inside to keep them occupied. If the kids are happy, everyone is happy.

  26. I completely agree with you about Virgin Atlantic. I flew them from Hong Kong to Australia. It is nice to be on an airline that actually thinks about what a passenger might need to be comfortable and they attempt to do it with the limitations they have. I would fly nothing else if possible.

  27. I haven't yet been in an airplane, and I have to admit the problems with airports and the like do make me nervous about it, but I'm glad to hear you had such a great experience with Virgin Atlantic.

  28. Hey Elise,

    As promised, I'm good like that, as promised, I'm now going to leave one of my um highly collectable comments to your rather detailed posting.

    Your flight situations have brought back some good memories and some rather bad memories. Like you I have been on many airlines. Air Canada, Canadian Pacific, KLM, Thomas Cook, Pan Am, British Airway ("the world's favourite airline")?, Aero Mexico from LA to Cancun, somehow. Yet I've never been on "Virgin on the Ridiculous" airlines. Sorry, "Virgin Atlantic". From what I've just skimmed through, oops thoroughly read, you are giving a glowing endorsement of Richard Branson's airline. Maybe next time I go from Manchester, England, to Vancouver, Canada, I should fly on a Virgin. Or take "Blog Air".

    So you were in Manchester, England? I wondered what all the noise was coming from the airport besides the planes. Must of been that parade in your honour!

    There you go. No long, rambling, nonsensical comment from me. I still think "Blog Air" is best! Welcome home, Elise.

    Gary :)

  29. Elise, I think you should write a post regarding this article and weigh in with your expertise:

  30. yer otter right books on yer trabbels - most entertainment-wise ;)

  31. Why doesn't every place issue a feel good kit. I might put one together for my blog. I like that. Glad you're back. :)

  32. I love Virgin Atlantic! I recently flew United and I swear, I will never fly them again if I can help it! I'm glad this part of your trip went smoothly!!

  33. I love Virgin Atlantic!! Virgin Air is like the best. I can't even.

  34. Sydney: Oh, I'd love to go to Australia. Heck, I'd love to go to Hong Kong too!

    Cherie: It's definitely an experience to do at least once. And yes, security is a real hassle, but then again, it's kinda their job. (:

    Michael: Thanks. I'll take a look at it.

    Gary: You graced me with one of your awesome comments! I see you've done a lot of flying too. Looks like I'm going to have to try out Blog Air, but only if you're piloting the plane. (; I'd love to try Blog Air, but only if you'll be piloting the plane: (:

    wuff: Too bad I hate writing about myself, lol! But maybe I could sprinkle some of it into my fiction.

    Mina: A Feel Good Kit, sounds like something the Fee Sh*t Fairy would giveaway. (:

    Meradeth: Oh, United. They are so bad. I'll never fly United either.

    Gina: I'll be flying with them. Glad you like them too. (:

  35. Happy you've had a much improved experience. Can't imagine what it must be like to get somewhere and not be able to get one's luggage. :(

  36. I've had some great international flights, but that seems like it was up there. So glad your family had smooth sailing/flying on your vacation. May all your subsequent flights be as impressive. You seem to travel more than I do, but luckily I've only had my bags delayed once, and never lost (fingers crossed and prayers sent). Writer’s Mark

  37. Anyone I've talked to that has flown with Virgin has had a good experience, I'm glad yours was good too! I like Air Canada, mostly because all their pilots are ex-military, which makes me feel a bit safer in case of sudden alien invasions (I'm assuming ex-military pilots have training in evasive maneuvers against attacking alien spacecraft)and WestJet is pretty good because all their employees have a sense of humour (which makes the inflight service pretty entertaining)

    Hope the rest of your trip is as good as the flight :)

  38. My critique partner is on vacation and Royal Caribbean broke her luggage...but then replaced it with a new, very nice set. I love it when companies step up to the plate and really take care of their customers.

    I've never flown Virgin Atlantic but I'm glad you had such a good experience with them. Hope you have an awesome trip!

  39. I found Virgin was an excellent Airline to fly even before Airline service started going way down hill. We flew to Japan on JAL many years ago and it was wonderful.
    Katie atBankerchick Scratchings

  40. I la-la-LUUUUUUURVE Virgin! Flew Virgin Atlantic to/fro London in the late 90s and then Virgin America to CA and try to get Virgin flights whenever I travel for work. LOVE that danged company, it's so much FUN.

    Glad you had a great experience with them and didn't end up burning in a fiery mid-Atlantic death!!! :-)
    Some Dark Romantic

  41. ooooh, purple cutlery! WANT WANT WANT :)

  42. Hi Elise .. now your comments are going up in increments of 'one' .. number 42 coming up! Virgin are good aren't they .. I just hate flying full stop.

    Cheers Hilary .... and I'm off to visit Michael's post ..


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