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Monday 20 June 2016

How to feel like you've wasted 50,000 frequent flyer points

It didn't start well - and it didn't get any better.

The premium check-in line at LAX was longer than the regular line - and the Eastern European woman who served me had such minimal English that I seriously could not understand her - heading off in completely the wrong direction.

It immediately occurred to me that Virgin Australia had been engaged in some staff cost cutting.

That point was emphasised by the boarding procedure - which had the American gentleman ahead of me talking about "untrained, minimum wage employees".

On board in economy, there were very few crew to be found to help passengers to the fairly uncomfortable seats. And zero service (or announcements) for 90 minutes after we boarded for a delayed departure.

To keep flyers refreshed there was a 240ml Read tiny) bottle of water in your seat - which you were supposed to re-fill yourself; no easy mission if you were in a window seat (note to self: never again take a window seat on a long-haul flight).

Dinner marked a new nadir. A stale bread roll; a Thai chicken curry without any spice and largely composed of four or five pieces of ultra-tough chook.

Dessert was equally ill-thought-out: a salty caramel ice cream. Salt not being ideal when there is minimal water. What are you thinkingLuke Mangan?

For the next 12 or so hours nothing much - unless you wanted to make your way back for a re-fill of warm water, an apple or a muesli bar. Or maybe I missed some mid-flight 777-300 treat by fitfully sleeping?

I passed on the "breakfast" wrap, vowing not to eat again until I was on terra firma.

I told the cabin steward the food had been awful and he admitted there had been "lots of complaints" about a new service style and urged me to fill in a feedback form. I'm doing this instead.

Luxury travel
All in all a pretty horrible experience and sad waste of 50,000 frequent flyer points. Next time I'd rather pay full fare to fly on a carrier that offers full-service options.

I did point out my criticisms to the extremely charming cabin supervisor who explained this is a new flight format. She listened and that was very much appreciated.

Maybe Virgin would be better advised spending money on decent food and water for the masses rather than boasting about lie-flat business seats for a handful of guests on flights to Perth to LA, investing all its money in "The Business".

To be fair, I am a fan and regular user of Virgin's domestic flights, and a Brisbane-LAX trip 10 days earlier was OK. I love the lounge service in Melbourne, particularly, and Sydney.

Incidentally, prior to this trip I sent three emails to Virgin asking for basic "fact box" material for flights between Australia and the US to use in potential stories. Useful info for any would-be flyers who still read newspapers and magazines (or even this blog). I received no reply. Maybe their PR people simply do not care.

# The writer is a Virgin platinum frequent flyer but is seriously reconsidering his loyalty. 

# Virgin apologised for my experience in an email and offered 7,000 frequent flyer points as compensation. 


  1. For a frequent flyer Winsor I am astonished that you would choose a window seat in a Y class long haul. No bulkhead isle seats available?

  2. Amazingly, even as a platinum FF, there were no aisle bulkheads available several weeks out. Thought I might be better able to sleep in a window seat - bad decision.