UPDATE: Looks like we bungled this one. We asked travel expert Mark Ashley for clarification and he said:
$110 is steep for an exit row, by my accounting, but it **guaranteed** him the seat. You pay for that certainty. An upgrade to premium economy — wider seat, better recline, more legroom — would have probably cost him double, if it were available. An upgrade to business, even more. Some background here.
Bottom line: If you want the **guaranteed** upgrade, you gotta pay, either in miles, points, or cold, hard cash. Sure, you can take a chance and hope for a free upgrade. But to be ASSURED of that better seat? Pay up. I don’t see the problem with the charge. The chargeback is unwarranted.
Adam is pissed because he had to pay Virgin Atlantic $110 to get “upgraded” to a seat with extra legroom, but then a guy who just asked a flight attendant for a similar seat got the same for free. When he complained to customer service, he was told a supervisor would call him back (this of course, never happened). Another rep offered him $40 for his troubles. Adam found this offer “insulting.”
He wrote a complaint letter, posted inside for your edification. It’s pretty clear and to the point, and it threatens a chargeback, which is a good way to let a company know you’re informed and serious.
Adam sent this to the regular customer service email line.
If he doesn’t get a good response, we advise kicking it up the ladder to the CEO or some other such high-ranking individual. CCing it to the DOT isn’t a bad idea either. See also 5 Tips For Complaining To Airlines.
To Whom It May Concern,
I have been treated very badly by Virgin Atlantic, which surprises me, as I have flown with Virgin at least a dozen times in the last three years and never experienced such poor customer service in the past. You have been my transatlantic airline of choice for the last several years, but I will be switching to British Airways if I can not have this issue resolved.
I flew from Los Angeles to Heathrow on VS 8, on April 19, 2007. I paid $110 US at the gate to be “upgraded” to an exit row seat with extra leg room. When I got on the plane I found that the “upgraded” seat is in fact narrower than the rest of the coach seats on the plane. I was surprised that I would have to pay a premium for a less comfortable seat. Adding insult to injury, a flight attendant seated someone next to me who had not paid the “upgrade” fee. He had just asked the attendant if he could have a seat with more legroom. Why was I charged for the privilege an hour earlier if all I had to do was ask once I got on the plane? This is unfair and dishonest of the gate agents.
When I called Virgin Atlantic on Saturday, April 21, I spoke with Bianca (ext. 32144), who said she was unable to offer me any recourse for my inconvenience and expense. She promised a supervisor would call back within 24 hours, which did not happen. I told her that I have never been called back by a supervisor from any company when promised, but she said someone would absolutely call me. They did not. I called again on Tuesday April 24 and spoke with Malvika (ext. 32970), who again refused to help me. I was then transferred to Ashutosh (ext. 32927), who offered me a
25 voucher for my inconvenience. This is completely unacceptable. I was charged $110 for an “upgrade” that was rendered worthless when someone was given the same service for free. Why would you offer me a $40 voucher when I had been fleeced over $100 cash? That is insulting.
It is my sincere request that you give me a worth-while upgrade to make up for the poor treatment I have received from Virgin Atlantic to date. I insist that you upgrade my return ticket (Heathrow-JFK VS45, April 26, 2007, Confirmation C4MT2X) to Premium Economy. If this can not be done I will initiate a chargeback for the “upgrade” fee with my credit card company.
Please respond to this email within 24 hours so this issue can be resolved in advance of my flight.
— BEN POPKEN