Virgin America Anniversary Flight From Hell


Adam is writing in to say that in the year that Virgin America has been operating, he feels that they’ve forgotten how to run their airline. The first time he flew with them, his flight was delayed and his laptop adapter melted. He got a free flight. The second time he flew, about a year later, his flight was delayed, the airline ran out of food, his luggage was ripped open and his valuables disappeared, and the baggage claim rep laughed at his misfortune.

Adam says:

I’ve been mulling this one over for awhile, and by “this one” I mean what I want to do about my experience last week on Virgin America’s anniversary flight from JFK to LAX. I flew out on one of the first last year and had an awful experience, which involved a four hour delay and a MacBook Pro power adapter that melted on me, and received a free flight as an apology. I really didn’t mind the delay or the melted power adapter. Chances are it wasn’t their fault as Apple makes crappy adapters, and they handled the delay very well. One year later it seems they’ve forgotten how to operate as an airline that serves its customers to the point that I’ve decided any compensation on their part would be unsatisfactory. Well, that’s not entirely true, but it would involve cash and lots of it. But really I’d rather they get a bit of bad press and hope they change their ways. They should be the best airline around.

I got on the plane around 11:00am on Friday, August 8th. I didn’t get off the plane for a little more than ten hours later. When we boarded we had a 30-40 minute delay that one should be accustomed to if they’ve ever flown out of JFK before, but by the time it was our turn to leave one of the air conditioning units broke. So, we went back. They figured it would take about half an hour to fix but quickly realized it would take much longer. They informed us we’d be let back into the airport to hang out in comfort but the messages stopped and the pilot went radio silent. The flight crew didn’t know what was going on and no one was let off the plane for a good hour and a half. Those who were finally let off were not let back on. The rest of us, who stayed, ended up waiting well into the afternoon when the plane took off five hours late.

Fine, delays happen. However, you’d think during the delays that someone from the flight crew would have the opportunity to stock the plane with food. Apparently they were only able to grab a few sandwiches and chips. Being a vegetarian I could only have the chips. My fault for my abnormal ethics, I suppose, but they were almost out of sandwiches when they got to my row. I was in row 10. By my estimation, half the plane went without food. To their credit, they did have plenty of water. For ten hours most of us didn’t eat or had very little. I always bring a few snacks on board just in case there isn’t much to eat but nothing to survive for an entire day. Luckily I did bring plenty of entertainment because their entertainment system was down as well. We never got the free movie we were promised. Supposedly we were given a $25 flight credit none of us will ever use, but I haven’t bothered to check.

All of this I can deal with. I had no intention of complaining. The whole event, thus far, was almost a blessing in disguise as I wasn’t looking forward to being in Los Angeles and by the time the flight was over I couldn’t have felt more glad.

Then I got my luggage. One of my bags had been ripped open. It could have easily been unzipped, but it was ripped. I’m not going to speculate as to how it happened but only my Apple TV and some DVDs were missing from the bag. No clothing or other small items fell out, oddly enough, but I wasn’t in the cargo bay of the plane so I can’t say whether or not it was stolen or simply lost via bag damage during the trip. Either way, I wanted someone to check and see if it had fallen out on the plane. I walked into the bag office and Joyce greeted me, before I said anything, with “all I can do is file a courtesy claim.”

Throughout our conversation she continued to tell me there was nothing she could do when all I asked is that she call baggage and make certain they hadn’t found any stray items. After half an hour she finally called, but this was long after her numerous accusations that I was trying to defraud Virgin America by claiming they stole my items. To be fair, those are my words and not hers. What she said to me was that her experience can rule out the TSA and airport employees so the only possible option is that it was my fault.

I asked her why she thought it was okay to accuse me and not them. She said, “you want me to accuse the TSA of stealing from you?” I told her “no, I don’t want you to accuse anyone at all,” at which point she decided to start filling out my claim. Throughout the process she asked me the same questions repeatedly. Given this is the sort of thing you do to a criminal I pretty much assumed she wanted to make sure I remembered my answers, but maybe she was just a complete moron. I feel I should give her the benefit of the doubt there. I could go on endlessly with examples of why this woman was horrible and cruel for no good reason other than what joys one might assume her job can bring, but I would like to mention one more thing. When I let her know which items were missing and how much they cost she laughed at me. She actually laughed at me.

I had a nice cab driver. The cab was cheaper than expected. Those are my silver linings. That and the plane didn’t crash nor was anything else of value stolen or lost. What a great day. Thanks Virgin America.

Hey, why not let the DOT know about your baggage complaint? They keep track of that sort of thing. The TSA has admitted that it has a problem with theft. You should give them a heads up as well. Finally, when your baggage seems tampered with, you should report it to the airport authorities so they can investigate. A spokesperson from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport once said: “We find that people often make a claim for an item to the airline, but never report it to the airport or the police, and then we don’t know that a theft problem is developing.”

(Photo: Maulleigh )