Have you ever had a bad travel day? You know, one of those days where you just wish you’d stayed at home? Or worse still, you’re trying to get home and everything seems to go wrong?
On my way back from Melbourne while flying Virgin Airlines, I experienced just such a day.
When it comes to choosing airline seats, I’m rather fussy. So, whenever I fly, I make it a point to choose my seat carefully. On a long flight, my preference is a row of empty seats or an emergency exit row seat (either the window or aisle is fine) followed by an aisle seat.
Choosing an airline seat
Call me precious, if you like, but when you fly as much as I do, you tend to develop a distinct set of likes and dislikes.
On my list of pet hates, sitting in a middle seat between two strangers ranks above visiting the dentist and leaping out of a plane with a parachute.
On this occasion, I arrived at Melbourne Tullamarine Airport well ahead of time. Of course, I had made sure I had carefully chosen my seat online.
As there was a very long queue of irritated passengers at the Virgin counter, I went to the kiosk and checked myself in, then proceeded to line up at the bag drop queue.
Half an hour later, the line of irate passengers at the bag drop queue had grown but those in the queue had not moved much.
Then we learnt our flight had been delayed, possibly by up to three hours. It’s fair to say, it seemed like many flights were delayed and not just Virgin Airlines (by the way, here’s an informative post on dealing with your insurance company when your flight is delayed).
Even though our flight had been delayed, passengers were still required to check in 60 minutes prior to the original scheduled flight time.
So, the positive was everyone booked on our flight was asked to step forward to complete the check in and bag drop ahead of others in the queue.
Several coffees, a sandwich and a bottle of mineral water later (note: Able Baker Charlie in Melbourne Tullamarine Airport serves great coffee), I rolled my carry on up to the boarding gate tired and grumpy.
What? You’ve moved me to a middle seat?
I was relieved to hand over my boarding pass and pleased at the thought of being one flight closer to home.
So when the staff member ripped up my boarding pass and handed me a new pass with a seat marked 12B (a middle seat), I was as happy as a bear with a toothache.
“You’ve got to be joking,” I said, dismayed at the thought of being squeezed into a centre seat.
The staff members’ flippant remark, insinuating that I must have arrived late and left choosing my seat to the last minute, upset me even further.
I voiced my irritation to the smiling flight attendant, Tracey, who greeted me as I boarded the aircraft, and slumped into my middle seat in a huff.
To make things worse, the flight was further delayed by a passenger who had checked a bag in but had not turned up at the gate.
What happened during the flight
Then, my luck changed. When all the passengers had boarded, Tracey tapped me on the shoulder. There was an aisle seat available, she said.
I was out of my centre seat in a flash.
The rest of the flight turned out to be one of the best domestic flights I’ve flown on. I was impressed at the friendliness of the flight attendants, who went out of the way to smile and joke, and put passengers at ease.
During the flight, I chatted to the team and learnt that some of them had been awake since 4.30am and were working extra shifts to make sure passengers got home.
If you want to see some great customer service in action, watch this video to the end. This was a real-life situation. The interviews were off the cuff.
Virgin Airlines Reviews
Virgin Australia was recognised for outstanding customer service at the 2013 Customer Service Institute of Australia (CSIA) Awards.
The awards are Australia’s top customer service awards and recognise excellence, best practice and innovation highlighting the importance of great service in today’s business climate.
This year was the first time the CSIA also granted ESi awards. These awards are based on the results of an annual survey of more than 3,000 customers in which participants were questioned about the overall ease of doing business with organisations. Virgin Australia was recognised with the following awards:
ESi Award – Domestic Airline – Winner
Service Excellence Award – Large Business – Finalist
Have you had a good or bad flight experience? Please tell me about it.
Christina Pfeiffer paid for her flight.