You can’t expect every person to be up to date on the latest news cycle, especially not on a global scale. But there’s a Virgin Atlantic Airlines CSR who not only somehow missed that Pakistan just suffered its worst flooding in 80 years, but who kept insisting the Elisa, a customer trying to make her way back home to NYC, prove that the flooding happened. Elisa says the CSR “insisted that there were no indications in her notes that a flood had happened in Pakistan,” and that Elisa would have to prove the news or pay $933 for a “service change fee” to get back home.
After four of the most terrifying days of my life – driving speedily through landslides, trudging through swollen rivers, and broken dams to get to dry ground, the most frustrating experience I encountered from living through the Pakistani floods (the worst in 80 years with hundreds dead and over half a million displaced) was with Virgin Atlantic Airlines.
When I was trapped in the mountain town of Gilgit, with six landslides and three broken bridges between me and Islamabad, I had no way of getting out and making my scheduled flight. The roads were going to take up to fourteen days to get back into working order, and I was thus going to miss my flight out of Islamabad to London, and also my connecting Virgin Atlantic flight from London to New York. I called Qatar airlines, who very accommodatingly offered to waive the change fees, due to the international crisis. And the Virgin Atlantic representative, who I spoke with briefly, recommended that I cancel my current flight, and rebook once I knew exactly when I would be in London. They promised that they understood national emergencies, and assured me that at that time, any change fees would be waved.
You can imagine then, my frustration and sheer loss for words, when after being airlifted out the floods by the Pakistani military in a cargo plane, and calling Virgin Atlantic (which were the steps they recommended), [redacted], the customer unservice rep, informed me that I would be charged a colossal $933 service change fee.
[Redacted] insisted that there were no indications in her notes that a flood had happened in Pakistan. (My suggestion that she check the headlines on BBC, the NYTimes or any major newspaper in the world fell on deaf ears.) After thirty minutes of pleading with her on the phone, explaining how I’d been airlifted out of a literal flood area by a Pakistani military cargo plane, and asking to speak to a manager who might have heard about the crisis, she eventually suggested that I try and convince another airline company to call her and convince her that an international crisis had happened. Confused by this strange request, but eager to resolve the situation, I asked her what information she would need, which airline she recommended, and which number I should have them call. She either hung up on me at that point, or I got disconnected.
It was at that point, in total emotional and physical exhaustion that I realized the situation was absurd. I gave up and did a quick check on the internet for flights from Heathrow to JFK on August 7th. Iberia airlines, it seems has a fare offering at $811. That’s right, I could buy an entirely new ticket for less than the “change fee” from Virgin Atlantic. Even though, both Qatar Airlines and American Airlines willingly offered to waive the change fee due to national emergency.
After the four most terrifying days of my life, I can’t help but feel exhausted and cheated by a company trying to take advantage of a person in a desperate situation.
I’d say it’s more likely that you somehow ended up with the stupidest CSR at the company. I can says she’s stupid without fear of offending her because I’m fairly certain there’s no way she’ll ever read this.