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Virgin mileage partner flights that don't exist

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After flying with Virgin for a few years, I had a pretty disappointing experience with their promotions on partners flights. This is not the usual "miles is a [problem]" argument, but merely the fact that Virgin is refuses to provide availability dates on the advertised scheme!

 

I used to fly upper class with a seat upgrade using miles from London to a distant destination (let's just say the other side of the world). This option was generally used by a lot of people and flights were quite busy. Obviously upgradable tickets fall under a flexible category and cost more than buying the same class ticket. Still an upper class seat was far more expensive to purchase and this option offered a good night's rest on very long flight.

One day some strategy genius decided one of the most popular destinations was not of interest and dropped that flight route. First I got in touch with the mileage club early 2015 to find out if I should just cancel my Amex miles card - and now I wish I had done straight away. I still had a pretty good amount of miles to spare, so I asked whether I could still fly there. The only point for me to use this was to fly there.

 

They strongly encouraged me to use a specific partner airline as an alternative and said it was a good option. In fact the partner airline being native to the country of destination and offering direct flights was a great option. The main difference was that tickets can only be bought with miles through Virgin club and required a lot of miles per passenger. The standard "subject to availability" limitations applied (as with all mileage and upgrade seats) plus taxes and surcharges, but still I was flexible on my dates.

I gave them yet another call to confirm all this and go through some dates. I made a reasonable effort to research this on my end and was given the impression things were straightforward. No other information or limitation was provided at the time. I continued using my black Amex and even worse, I bought £1,000 miles through one of their promotions.

When I finally called them to book tickets about nearly four months in advance (which some may argue is still a short time before a booking but irrelevant to the issue). It all started off pretty well, with availability odds being very good. Since the thread may end up having the length of a thesis, I will try to summarise things here.

After a long call I reserved a business seat with miles and booked flights for two other passengers on the same date directly with the partner. Following up on that call to complete payment resulted in the ticket reservation being withdrawn, as it was "booked in error". Things took the downturn after this. I was then told by another agent such tickets are rarely available and the partner company cannot confirm tickets straight away but may take up to 24 hours. Further I was told that information had to be fed to the partner's system first to obtain feedback and there was no way of knowing available dates upfront with the partner company. We started playing a lottery game, every single date provided was coming back as "not available". At some point I requested to know of the available dates for any seat and was told that I am looking for a needle in a haystack! The partner company was to blame for a pretty poor availability system provided to Virgin and was discouraged from using this option…

I spent more than 3 hours on the phone with follow up calls from their agents, while complained to them about the promotion being completely misleading and a con. The conclusion is that they could not provide any available dates whatsoever and the option is pretty much not applicable. I even asked for seats six months down the line (since they said they could book almost a year in advance) but have yet to receive feedback on that availability. I was then offered a number of BS options to spend some of the thousands of miles on activities, wines, hotels and whatnot that have no equivalent standing to the seat I was supposedly encouraged to book with the partner months before. I clearly explained that if I wanted wines or hotels I need not collect miles with their club. The entire time the mileage club was shifting the responsibility onto the partner airline.

 

I finally wrote a letter of complaint to them with a full perspective on the situation. I requested to have in writing all available dates for a year for the specific promotion at the point of writing. I also asked for them to consider a partial refund on the miles I purchased, given that it all occurred on the basis of the information they provided which was misleading and limited advice from their agents.

Their response was in the lines of "we are sorry you feel short changed…" try using our rewards to near destinations and change or spend you miles with hotels and wines. Again they could not provide any dates for the partner available to Virgin miles customers and this time argued the partner requires 72hours to confirm! The reply felt pretty much as a copy-paste and did not address any of my points in terms of misleading advertising.

Some people with hindsight may argue this to be the standard miles con, where flyers think they can earn a superb upgrade for free or gain luxury seats with miles etc. It does however work for some unpgrades on such occasions and have used them in the past. If dates are flexible it is even better but of course any flight company will offer promotions to its own customers first and paying customers before issuing rewards.

This however is an entirely different case on the manner in which the scheme is promoted to customers. Virgin is essentially not providing "availability status" (rather than say no-availability or subject to availability) on a scheme advertised through the mileage club to customers. So the scheme cannot be applied or materialise as such, because the default option of this approach is no-availability but we will take your money first. Last but not least the promotion is advertised without disclosing such details about the workings of the booking process and none of the above information is mentioned on prior communications to customers whilst doing their research.

The credit card is now cancelled but I am also thinking to drop a letter to Trading Standards just to ask of their views…

 

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What do you expect?

We're talking about the Virgin brand here!

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would the other airline be Air China?


:mad2::-x:jaw::sad:

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would the other airline be Air China?

 

No, it is a five star airline.

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