Advantages Great Value
Disadvantages On this occasion booking/ticket admin stressful
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I think its necessary to preface this review. I’ve looked closely at excellent reviews of Virgin Holidays by fellow Ciao members going back to 2000. It is fair to say that some of what follows revisits/mirrors areas, experiences, and issues previously highlighted by others in some cases as long ago as 2000. I hope to complement all this excellent material, and importantly provide something of an update based on our recent experience.Why did we go for it? After all we had decided that we were not going to have another holiday for a while....
Coping with Virgin Holidays booking, invoicing, ticketing process required on this occasion, patience, fortitude, perseverance, persistence, through the initial stages, and a determination not to be fobbed off when things did not go smoothly through no fault of our own.It was not possible to book online, which we would have preferred to do. Instead an 0871 number was given….and we all know what that can mean….. and so it was…the multitude of options 1 for this 2 for that (leading to other options…running to 5 choices at one particular stage), plenty of extremely agreeable background music (if you overcame the notion that you were paying for the privilege of listening to it), profuse recorded apologies for keeping us waiting, and the usual corporate reassurance that the call was very important to them.
The offer clearly generated a great deal of interest. On the first day despite several attempts running through the electronic system and waiting we spoke to no one. At the fourth attempt on the following afternoon we struck lucky… getting to speak to an extremely helpful young lady from the reservations team who took our booking over the course of the next 35 minutes or so ( remember 0871!) (accurately detailed, as we thought at the time, since she read back entries as she made them on her computer). Payment was made in full given the June departure. The price by then was £421 each as all the standard rooms had been taken earlier……still very much a bargain despite this initial hassle (in case you are interested the 0871 calls totalled a modest £15 !)Over the next two and a half weeks no invoice was forthcoming either through email ( Virgin Holidays didn’t do email confirmations apparently) or the post. Indeed the paper tickets ( they don’t use E – tickets we discovered) landed before the invoice, in the week before we were due to travel. Checking them over we found that a section of my wife’s name was missing….incorrect name translates into no flight at check in.
Back into the 0871 jungle/maze. The first connection was to a singularly unhelpful lady who you sensed really didn’t want to work for Virgin Holidays or indeed anywhere where she might have to take calls from customers, who had a legitimate query, and who had indeed already parted with £842. She was adamant that we had had a good discount on brochure prices, and that an administration charge of £80 would have to be paid before new tickets could be issued. She was singularly unimpressed that we had no way of knowing that they had raised tickets on information that they had got wrong. This unproductive call was discontinued.Ringing back again later the next customer relations lady was delightful, empathized with our position but could do nothing. There would be an £80 charge. Our request to speak to a manager led to consultation with a supervisor and an initial offer to split the difference on the administration charge, before- faced with obduracy on our part - finally it was conceded that there should be no charge at all in the circumstances, but only as ‘a goodwill gesture’.When the invoice landed (again after the new tickets) it showed ‘reissue ticket’ as an £80 debit item, this offset by a’ goodwill gesture’ credit item for the same amount. So that’s alright then.
Lest this piece seems unduly negative. let it be said that it is not intended as a rant. We got the distinct impression, rightly or wrongly, that the back office at Virgin Holidays was creaking, in need of some attention, and might well have been suffering from overload (a genuinely good offer, operating to short time scales, and generating lots of interest and bookings?). Issues highlighted by Ciao members a good while back are still evident. To safeguard its own reputation and to maintain the confidence of paying customers, simple measures like putting all their offers to online booking, confirmatory emails ,making sure that invoices precede ticket issue would be steps in the right direction.For all Ciao’ers no doubt about it…go for the offers from Virgin Holidays but keep an eagle eye on the admin!(It was a brilliant holiday….but more of that later!)
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