An open letter to Virgin Atlantic

Dear Virgin Atlantic,

My family and I travelled from Manchester to Orlando with you and back again this month.  We almost booked with British Airways but they were £200 dearer so we booked with you. I can’t say that our experience was horrific or warrants a viral internet reaction. It was just…..crappy. I walked away feeling like I probably will never fly with you again.

Where do I begin? Okay how about waiting to board the plane? I am so used to hearing first and premium class invited to board first, then the disabled, then parents travelling with small children – I know that the last 2 need more time to get on board and get organised. Except the children part never happened. We were called up by row numbers meaning that we were one of the last families on board. We had already cleared security but as we walked down the tunnel to get on the plane, my family and I (husband and 20 month old toddler) were pulled aside as we struggled with 3 flight bags, blankets, coats and the baby. We were told to take everything electrical out of our luggage again – after already having done so. I was subjected to a search, despite having already passed through the metal detector. My husband and I had to pass the baby back and forth while we were asked to repeat procedures performed less than an hour before. By the time we FINALLY made it onto the aircraft, we were flustered, had things all over the place in wrong bags etc and we had very little time or space to get the 3 of us organised into our seats. The flight was okay – nothing special.

The return flight was dreadful. We had just got settled on board when someone came to us and we had to get out of our seats to get the boarding pass out as a staff member failed to scan it correctly and didn’t have one of us showing as being on board.

Then, my husband’s seat did not recline on a night flight when we had a toddler on our lap. The air hostess gave us some generic answer but couldn’t have actually cared less. We lay our son across us both and he fell to sleep. The family in front reclined their seats all the way and were the most fidgety family in Britain – each time they moved and bounced around (very frequent) they bashed my son with their seats because we had so little room for him to begin with. We could have booked an extra seat I guess….except he is under 2 and we couldn’t afford it. What we SHOULD have done was find the additional £200 from somewhere to fly with British Airways who strive to help families with little ones. Who, when you call to book, confirm that you AND your partner can sit together at the carrycot location – unlike you who said that my husband and I might not be seated together. On a 9 hour flight. With a baby. Genius.

In fact, all your ‘helpline’ wanted to do was sell us seats with extra legroom, instead of offering them outright. Virgin seemingly have no interest in helping families travelling with small children or making the experience any easier. The only saving grace was an air stewardess who let me sit in the jump seat for half an hour after I gave up my seat to my poor son so he could sleep without having a seat back smacked into his forehead. That air hostess was an absolute angel who took one look at me and our cramped area and knew I was having a nightmare. I didn’t sleep one wink during that night flight.

Your helpline was useless. There was no meal for our baby on the return flight, despite me having requested it via the same helpline who tried to sell me extras. I understand that everyone has a job to do and I understand that security is a serious issue, but we had already undergone substantial scrutiny previously. All of our electric devices were checked, our bags scanned, our buggy swabbed down. Why we were subjected to an additional check seconds before we stepped onto the plane is beyond me. No effort was made to help us get out stuff together afterwards.

See? Nothing too serious. Nothing dreadful. Just niggly little things that add up to a bad experience overall. We plan to go to Florida again some time in the future. This time, my son will be over 2 so we’ll need to find that extra money for the additional seat. And we will and I can guarantee one thing – it won’t be on a Virgin plane.