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Thursday 25 April 2013

Why Virgin Australia is driving me a little bit crazy

Let's get one thing straight from the start: Virgin Australia is my preferred domestic airline carrier. I opt to fly with Virgin whenever I have a choice, or my schedule permits.

I like Virgin's flexible "can do" attitude. If a passenger has an issue the response of its rivals is generally "no". Virgin's tends to be: "Let's see what we can do."

I love Virgin's lounges, particularly the warm response I always receive from the great crew in Melbourne, and the fact that meals are not included in budget fares doesn't worry me as I am generally on short haul flights anyway.

What I hate is the fact that Hobart has no lounge (and the one promised for 2013 has now been pushed back) - meaning that frequent flyers based in Tasmania don't get a fair go. 

I also dislike the fact that over recent months (and I've caught five Virgin flights over the past three days so I know what I'm talking about) Virgin has shown signs of service levels dipping to meet those of their competitors.

Some examples: No entertainment at all on four recent flights (oh for the days of Sky channels in seat backs) and the staff have been decidedly grumpy on two of those, albeit busy, flights.

Then there are the dull-witted, surly girls they appear to be increasingly employing at boarding gates (although no doubt they come cheap).

Throw in the tasteless wraps and the very stale sandwich I had yesterday (I note most frequent flyers now refuse these out of hand) and the food on board is uninspired. Although Luke Mangan tells me a menu revamp is underway. Great news.

Then there is the fact that frequently flyers are asked to record a seat preference. Mine is an aisle seat but on my last four flights I've been put in window seats, including one next to a bloke who weighed nearly 200 kilos and nearly suffocated me. How hard can it be to allocate an aisle if one is requested?

I also notice a tendency to almost ignore the fact that flights are running late. On some occasions there is barely an apology. I also hate it when airport signs say "go to gate" or "boarding" and you arrive to find the flight is not boarding for another 30 minutes.

None of these things are important on their own. They are all trifling complaints of decidedly minor consequence. Except I want Virgin to succeed. I want serious competition in the domestic airline sector. I also want a Hobart Lounge, but that's by the by.

What I don't want to see is a complacent Virgin Australia whose standards sink to those of the opposition. I want to be able to recommend Virgin as the airline that I choose to fly - and that means fixing up nagging issues like these. I'm sure I'm not the only Virgin flyer to feel the same way.         

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