I'm sure I am not the only person who gets cranky with Virgin and other Airlines when they use cheap practices on their ticket booking websites to get "a bit extra' out of their customers to bolster their profit margins.
I don't have a problem with them making profits mind you. However, when they use these cheap practices to sneak in more profit by preying on customers by expecting them to read every little bit of small text whilst making a booking, I believe it's going too far.
In particular my gripe is about the way the "Optional Travel Insurance" sections are automatically chosen and it is up to us the customer to read carefully the small print that says if we don't want it we have to untick it. This is after you have trolled through all the other stuff they try to sell you which is left unticked and up to you to choose to buy, then suddenly out of the blue comes one that is automatically chosen for you. How very patronising of them!
My second gripe is with the fixed charge they levy on us for paying by credit card. This applies to many organisations these days who seem to think they can rip you off by making you think they are just passing on the 'bit' that the banks charge them.
IN FACT, IT COSTS MOST MERCHANTS LESS THAN 1% OF THEIR INVOICE VALUE. SO MANY COMPANIES LIKE VIRGIN ARE HAPPILY MAKING, IN SOME CASES, 1000% PLUS MARKUPS ON WHAT THE BANKS CHARGE THEM!!
IN THE CASE OF A VIRGIN AIRLINE TICKET WORTH, SAY, $200.00, THE BANK CHARGES THEM LESS THAN $2.00 AND WE GET CHARGED $7.70 FOR WHAT IS, ESSENTIALLY, AN ELECTRONIC CHARGE WITH NO OTHER ASSOCIATED HANDLING COSTS. THAT'S A COOL 285% GROSS PROFIT.
On Saturday the 2nd August, I made such a booking for my elderly Mother for a flight from Darwin to Sydney, and whilst I was absolutely sure I had unticked the "Travel Insurance" section (I have been caught previously, unfortunately!), I may not have. When it came to the end and I had to pay, I noticed that the quoted price had gone up. But I thought it was just the credit card surcharge. To my horror, when I finally paid with my card, it had gone up again. When I checked the ticket confirmation I found out I had been charged an extra $13.50 for Travel Insurance, which I had not wanted.
Then came the time wasting bit..... I phoned Virgin and got put through to a call centre in the Phillipines. First attempt was a major wait and then a customer service rep who I could not understand and who couldn't understand me. The English was really bad and the line was equally as bad! Second attempt, I got told that I had to speak to the Insurance Company, Allianz Australia, who would sort it out. Well I got cut off during that attempt. Third attempt I managed to get someone who took a bit more care and waited on the line whilst I was put through to Allianz.
The lady at Allianz (an Australian thank heavens!) could not help me because it was Saturday and in any case I was supposed to have been sent a policy, and without a policy number I could not raise a claim for return of the money. Please ring on Monday when I get the policy by email. Well as of writing one week later, I have not received a copy of the policy,so I cannot even cancel it yet and ask for a refund!
I asked the nice lady at Allianz to convey a complaint to Virgin to change the automatic choosing of "Travel Insurance" and allow customers to choose themselves. She said that Allianz HAD ASKED VIRGIN TO LEAVE THIS UNTICKED OVER A YEAR AGO, BUT NOTHING HAS BEEN DONE ABOUT IT!
In fact, she said that Allianz had to deal with hundreds of customers most days, who complained about the same thing and wanted their money back!
Now,wouldn't you think that these statistics would make any responsible organisation sit up and think? But no, Virgin and the other monopoly airlines are happy to make the extra hundreds of thousands or maybe millions of bucks that this would bring them in every year from most customers who don't complain. Oh! and of course, for the customers that do complain and stand up for a principal they are happy to waste our valuable time and leave us and Allianz to clean up...... how totally convenient.
Let's face it, it would take a programmer about five minutes to fix the issue on their website once and for all, so there is no excuse for procrastinating.
By asking you to sign this petition I would like to get these airlines to sit up and take notice. We, their customers do not OWE them any loyalty. They have to EARN our loyalty and trust!
And by the way, Virgin Airlines, why are you destroying your brand name by choosing to partner with call centres that cannot provide customer service representatives who can speak fluent and understandable English? This should be a basic pre-requisite.
Change.org followers, let's see if we can get to at least 20,000 signatures to give Virgin and others like them a strong message. In marketing terms one signature is, they tell me, worth at least one hundred others. So 20,000 signatures is equivalent to around 2,000,000 people who think like us.
Virgin Airlines Australia, I am sure your founder, Richard Branson, who from all acounts seems like a perfectly honourable man, would disapprove strongly of your unconscionable behaviour.
Doug Walker started this petition with a single signature, and now has 3,674 supporters. Start a petition today to change something you care about.