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Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
Member Name: Teena2003
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
Date: 19/02/06, updated on 19/02/06 (41355 review reads)
Advantages: receive airmiles for qualifying flights and may eventually qualify for free flights
Disadvantages: may never qualify, very bad customer service, misleading literature and website, don't answer phone
My last fight to the USA was with Virgin Atlantic and I noticed it was one of the very few airlines I've flown with, yet never joined their frequent flyer programme (I collect miles with American Airlines, Air Berlin, British Airways and Lufthansa who are part of the Star Alliance and therefore cover United)
To rectify this oversight I joined up, online, via the Virgin Atlantic website. You enter all the necessary information, name, address, date of birth, etc. and once the process is complete you are given a frequent flyer membership number. You can enter that number for every Virgin flight you book, either directly with Virgin or with other companies.
We had booked with expedia online and after adding the new membership number on their website via a drop down menu, it was immediately added to the flight with Virgin that I had to my name.
One of the rules is that you can only collect frequent flyer miles for yourself and not others even if they are flying with you.
When checking in at Gatwick airport the frequent flyer number was printed directly onto the boarding pass, something that was pointed out to me by the staff, they even went so far as to underline the number - as if I hadn't noticed.
Anyway, like most loyalty programmes there are some rules and regulations you have to take into account when you collect miles.
The registration is only complete once you return from your first qualifying flight with Virgin when you are sent a proper credit card size membership card together with a welcome pack. Normally that takes about 28 days, mine took longer as there was more time between booking the flight and the actual completion of the same.
When you receive your card and welcome pack you will find that you are now classed a VIP or in Virgin terms, Very Important Passenger. I will get back to that a little later.
So, what can you expect once you are a member with your shiny new (or matt in this case) card?
As with all frequent flyer programmes, you are rewarded with airmiles when you use the airline or one of their participating partners. Normally you earn 100% of miles flown for economy flights, the percentage will go up for premium economy, business class and first class. The more qualifying flights to have the quicker you will be in line for upgrades and flights.
Miles will never expire as long as you earn or spend miles at least once in three years.
With Virgin you earn miles for flying on their flights but also for Delta Airlines, Air Jamaica, Continental Airlines and Malaysia Airlines to name but a few.
You can also earn miles by booking into certain hotels (Hilton, Le Meridien, Mandarin Oriental, Savoy Group and more), car rental, credit cards and also other Virgin Group companies. The more you spend with all those the quicker you will get your rewards.
Of course if you are booking a Virgin Holiday, tell them your flying club membership number and you can get up to 10% off the holiday. I'm sorry but having compared Virgin Holidays with online travel sites like Expedia, even if you should get the 10% off, their price is still much higher than that of Expedia. Trust me, I have tried to get a cheaper holiday with Virgin and it wasn't possible. Expedia always came up trumps.
As an added bonus you will receive money off for airport parking (5% at BCP for red members), big deal I say. Those car parks are overpriced anyway and it's often much cheaper to park elsewhere or use public transport.
There are two different counting systems for frequent flyers with Virgin. Of course there are the frequent flyer miles. They will pile up when you book qualifying flights.
Then there's also a rather strange tier system. Each qualifying flight also gives you tier points. These are used to elevate you to the next level of VIP (Very Important Passenger) because according to Virgin "Red means Go" and is only the beginning of your journey through the class system.
The next step up is the Silver Level. You need 15 tier points to advance from Red to Silver. If you count 2 tier point per one way flight in economy it can take you a while to get there. Of course, if you fly Upper Class on a qualifying flight you will receive 5 tier points per one way flight. To advance from Silver to Gold status you need 40 tier points, just in case you were interested to know.
The class system is dead, long live the Virgin "I'm better than you" class system.
Of course, the higher in the pecking order you are the more free stuff you can expect. If you have a gold card you can check in at the upper class desks regardless of the class flight you are taking, use the airline lounge, get upgrade vouchers for the Heathrow or Gatwick Express and so on.
My experience with Virgin Flying Club
Remember when I mentioned that you only get your membership card sent when you had a qualifying flight? Well, that's what I thought when my package and card arrived.
My boarding card told me that my class was "Y" and the booklet and online miles table show, I was due 13060 miles for my return flight to Las Vegas. What a nice surprise, I thought.
How wrong was I?
After getting all excited about the 13000+ miles I had already amassed on my flight I went online to check my balance. And to my utter surprise the balance was a BIG FAT ZERO. I checked the statement. Yes, the Las Vegas flight was on there and suddenly it was a non-qualifying flight.
I sent an email to their customer service address querying the strange discrepancy. I never receive a confirmation that my email was received. I never received an answer to my email.
According to their website, all email enquiries are answered within 48 hours. I gave them until after the weekend and resent the email, this time to frequent flyer miles and the normal customer service. Again, my emails were ignored.
On Friday I decided to try one last time via email and at the same time try their telephone number. You should know, the lower down in the pecking order you are for frequent flyer miles, the more expensive your call will be.
Those with a Red card need to call a national 0870 number, Silver can use a local 0845 number while Gold members - who are most likely the ones who can afford the call charge - are given a free 0800 number. Isn't it great how much Virgin value the little people. Remember? According to their welcome pack you are a VIP - even in Red. Ha, VIP my a***.
It will take approximately 15 minutes before someone bothers to answer the phone. By that time you have either given up the will to live thanks to the hard sell, music and fluffy voice over while on hold, or you have put the phone down in disgust.
My second attempt at calling finally got me through to someone. I told them about the online statement saying that I was on a non-qualifying flight. And the woman on the phone sounded like she couldn't be bothered. She checked my frequent flyer number and announced that my flight was discounted and therefore non-qualifying for miles, it was in class N.
Neither my e-ticket - nor the confirmation or any other correspondence I had from Virgin regarding my flight - told me the actual class I was travelling in.
What Virgin DO NOT tell you, because their ground (check-in) staff are possibly of limited intelligence they have only ever used three of the available classifications. For example, while you can have a seat in Economy Class M, N, Q, V, X, Y, B or L your boarding pass apparently will ALWAYS say Class Y (which is a full price ticket and gives you - until the end of this month 125% of miles flown, 100% after that). The same will be true for Premium Economy and Upper Class. How you are supposed to know if and when your flight is eligible for frequent flyer miles is therefore a lottery.
Virgin's flight classifications are a total mess and you may think you are getting frequent flyer miles, you could end up with nothing. You are better off not signing up as their system is terribly flawed and knowing if and when you get miles is never easy.
Whatever happened to 'You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar'? The customer service are obviously so set in their ways, there is no flexibility and even mistakes made by them are not recognised and remedied.
How easy would it have been to admit their mistake that they shouldn't have sent me the membership card because I hadn't completed a qualifying flight and because it was their mistake they give me miles I thought I had? It would have been very easy. I would have walked away happy, probably never used the miles because I probably wouldn't have had a chance to fly Virgin on a qualifying flight and the miles would have expired after three years. But I would have told everyone how nice Virgin had been and what a nice airline they are to fly with.
What they actually achieved is the total opposite. I have vowed never to use Virgin again - and knowing me, I will not use them again as their flight are usually most expensive. I am also telling everyone about my experience with Virgin frequent flyer miles.
It is obvious that people at Virgin do not know the simple math when it comes to customer satisfaction: a satisfied customer goes away and tells 3 people, an unhappy customer tells 20 who then tell 20 more and so on.
If you are really interested in joining the Virgin Flying Club please do so but do not expect any of your flights to qualify. If you have a lot of money and can afford the full fare flights you can earn your miles, otherwise, don't bother. As the boarding pass will never tell you the true classification of your flight, Virgin can call it whatever they want and get away with it.
I have also written a strongly worded letter to Virgin Headquarters that I will send off after the weekend. I will include my membership card and in no uncertain way did I tell them what I think of their operation. I am not expecting a reply. After all, they couldn't be bothered to answer any of my three emails and were so cold and unsympathetic on the phone that I actually put the phone down on them.
However, I will mention this review in my letter and give them the link so they can read for themselves what I think of them.
According to Virgin I am a VIP. Of course I am. I'm Very Irate & P****d off.
Virgin Flying Club
Virgin Atlantic Airways
Flying Club red - 08701 61 60 59
Flying Club silver - 0845 07 45678
Flying Club gold - 08000 721 234
Opening Hours: 07.00 - 22.00 seven days a week.
www.virgin-atlantic.com and click on Frequent Flyer in the left hand side menu
Summary: not worth the bother
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