Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Dear Sir Richard Branson,

Dear Sir Richard Branson,

In spite of the fact that your name is so similar to that of Branston Pickle, I have a problem with your airplane service. It's not just that the names are so similar that I feel misled that you serve no Branston Pickle on your flights (which is something that should be remedied).

Yesterday or whenever it was, I woke up early (6am) to go to Heathrow and catch my flight to JFK, where I was to catch a bus to the Port Authority Bus Station and then catch another bus to my home in Ithaca, where my husband and dog were patiently awaiting my arrival. I had hoped to find my friend Brian in New York - a friend I haven't seen in several years, have ane nice leisurely meal and a good old fashioned chin wag before departing on my 6 hour bus trip to Ithaca.

Things didn't go according to plan and, Sir Richard, I blame you. Or at least your airline. I was notified of a one hour delay, when I checked my bags. This one hour stretched to 2 hours, then 3 and then canceled. It was by the grace of fortune that the Virgin desk is next to the toilets that I was just leaving when the flight notification board was changed to read: New York, VS003, Flight Delayed to 12:00, Gate Opens 15:45. The fact that the gate was set to open several hours after the flight was supposed to gave me pause enough to walk straight over to your desk. Within 10 minutes everyone else on my flight was standing behind me, including a loud Welsh woman and her mortified daughter (the Welsh woman kept threatening to faint) and a crabby, depressing New Yorker woman with droopy eyelids and a permanent frown who kept making increasingly more rude and scathing comments about the girls behind the desk.

We were then told that we were all to be transferred to the 2pm flight. And this, Sir Richard, this is where I feel there must have been a gross misuse of us as customers. Because, I just don't see how it was at all possible to fit all of us on another flight. I think that one of the flights - and I'm inclined to think it was the 2pm flight, wasn't full. And you'd be damned if you were going to send a plane over that wasn't full to capacity. Even if it resulted in your customers trips to New York (there were a lot of vacationers) being ruined or it meant that it made an already unpleasent trip, infinitely worse. I didn't get home until 25 hours after I woke up to get ready to go. I almost missed the last bus of the evening which would have resulted in my arriving home at 4am.
I felt even more unfairly treated when I opened up my "Sorry Voucher" packet, only to find that I was totally ineligible for any extra miles offered by Virgin, because I was only delayed 5 hours (not 6) and I hadn't paid enough for my ticket. Of course I purchased a cheaper ticket out of stinginess and because I am uncouth and unstylish and don't really understand what the word "luxury" means. Not at all because I couldn't afford a more expensive ticket and that we paid for the trip by scrimping and saving money, so that I could spend at least one more Christmas with my 100 year old grandmother. Which explains why I am so undeserving of any compensation beyond the 5 pounds I was given for 'light refreshments'. The actual flight itself was an interminable 8 hours, not including the extra time we spent circling JFK and subsequently taxiing on the ground at JFK. I had selected an aisle seat, near the front but was given a seat between a 6'3 Swede and a little old lady who applied nauseating perfume twice throughout the trip.

So anyway. My trip was absolutely horrible. And your airline's attempts to make me feel better were weak and infuriating. I am an unhappy customer.


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