Dear Virgin Australia,

I am writing to you to document my recent experiences of flying on VA100 on Saturday 14 February 2015. In fact, it is somewhat ironic that you call yourselves Virgin as I feel as though I had been somewhat screwed by your company.

In case you
do not have the paperwork handy on this particular flight, it was a scheduled
flight from Melbourne to Christchurch departing the former at 18:35 and
scheduled to arrive at the latter at 23:50. Obviously had this happened as
scheduled, I would not be writing to you though so allow me to outline the
events of this particular Valentine’s Day evening which we spent together.

This was my
first time on a Virgin [flight] and the Valentine’s Day rendez-vous started out
well. You showed up on time and I took my seat. As the departure time
approached, the captain mentioned that we were just waiting for the final
paperwork and would shortly be on our way. Seeing as I travel frequently, I
know that this is fairly typical and so was not too disheartened by the 15
minute wait for the final paperwork. Once this was complete, the crew quickly
went around doing all the final things to make sure that the plane is airworthy
such as ensuring that all the window shades were open and seats were in the
upright position before providing us with the safety demonstration. Without
much further ado we departed Melbourne Airport, naively believing we were on
our way to Christchurch. Our date was off to a rocky start as we encountered
some turbulence, but you were a lot smoother once we got to 35,000 feet. I am
not sure how familiar you are with the flight path between Melbourne and
Christchurch (fairly familiar I’m hoping but one can never be too sure) but the
last time that I checked it was pretty much a straight line in a roughly ESE
direction with a few turns to navigate around the two airports. Naturally, you
can understand why I was a tad concerned about the direction our date was headed
when we commenced a 180° turn over the Tasman Sea.

Now I know
what you’re thinking. You’re thinking “Ah, but an angle of 180° is a straight
line.” Whilst this is mathematically correct, when an aircraft follows such a
turn, it turns back around, going the wrong way on the straight line. I am no
expert, but I am sure you can forgive me if I have wrongly assumed that this
was not the intended flight path. The captain quickly affirmed my hypothesis
informing the cabin that we were returning to Melbourne for an “operational
reason to collect some paperwork.” We were assured that there was nothing wrong
with the plane but that they just needed to be sure the plane was safe. Those
two things seem somewhat contradictory to me – if there is nothing wrong with
the plane, it is safe right? Given that we had already waited on the ground for
a considerable amount of time prior to departure to collect paperwork (which I
am assuming arrived as I am giving the captain the benefit of the doubt that he
remembered why he was waiting on the ground to begin with), I began to
hypothesise what possible paperwork was so important that we needed to go back
500kms to collect it, and how on earth an airline that presumably ordinarily
meets Civil Aviation Authority regulations can make such a basic error. Was it
the passenger manifest? Cargo manifest? Had the pilot left his wallet behind? A
Valentine’s Day card and some chocolates from Duty Free perhaps? The cost of
returning a plane to an airport mid-flight is thousands of dollars and is
reserved for events which compromise the safety of an aircraft. Did staff fail
to complete the pre-flight safety checklist? This was just one of the
speculations floating around the cabin.

Of course,
all speculation could have been alleviated with a simple explanation but none
was forthcoming, just a stressed out cabin crew including one particular staff
member who shouted at a passenger to sit their baby down or they’ll delay the flight
even further. Now I understand that she was as keen as anyone to get home, but
whenever I am at work, I maintain my professionalism. Given the plane was not
even close to moving at the time, this was uncalled for. The flight had been
delayed by two hours at this point due to an issue at Virgin, this passenger
has been just as disrupted as everyone else. Now, I appreciate that we all take
some secrets to a first date, but on this particular Valentine’s Day date, it
was insufficient to tell passengers that we had to return for paperwork.
Frankly, that is insulting to assume that passengers will just accept that as a
reason to delay a flight by two hours – if I had turned up at the airport without
my necessary paperwork such as a passport, I am fairly confident the flight
would not have been held whilst I went back to pick it up – there is more to
the story than what we were told and passengers had a right to be privy to what
was going on. We were kept on the ground without being permitted to disembark and
were not provided with water. You can understand that given the lack of
information and the clearly amateur error that had taken place by one or more
of the Virgin team and/or procedures, that one wasn’t exactly filled with
confidence that this date would go well. After counting the number of wings and
engines on the plane for myself (just for your paperwork records, there were
two of each), I strapped myself back in and just hoped that the flight would
make it to Christchurch without further incident (which fortunately it did and
for that I am grateful, albeit two hours behind schedule).

My key
take-home T-shirt message for Virgin if you want people to stay with you for
the long-haul (if you’ll pardon the pun) rather than having a one nighter is
to communicate effectively! We all make mistakes, this may be hard to believe,
and will blow your mind if you subscribe to the belief that “the customer is
always right” but even I am not perfect (because let’s face it, if everything
had gone right in my life spending Valentine’s Day evening on a plane would not
have been my first choice of activity). It’s all about how you deal with those
mistakes – I understand that at the start of any new relationship, you want
there to be an element of excitement and perhaps your way of spicing things up
compared to those older, more experienced airlines that have been around the
block a few more times was to get peoples’ heart rates up by having that slight
element of fear that the aircraft may or may not be safe. Whilst as a young
person who travels frequently and with a good knowledge of safety requirements
pertaining to aviation etc. I can more effectively infer what is going on and
put my own mind at ease, spare a thought for your own dear Great Aunt Hortesse
for whom flying is already an ordeal. Now imagine the anxiety and stress caused
by not knowing what is going on versus the calm Great Aunt Hortesse who has
just had the flight crew explain to her and her fellow passengers exactly what
happened and that everything is fine now. I for one, would like to know what
happened, and I will assume that you are able to locate the necessary paperwork
to inform me.

previously mentioned, this was my first time with Virgin. My experience of
losing my Virgin Australia virginity should have been a pleasurable and
enjoyable one, but sadly it was an exhausting 6 hour ordeal that left me
feeling tired, a little bit queasy and thinking that riding Virgin is not
something that I want to do again.



Filed and actual flight path source:


Virgin Australia Respond: Read their response here

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