How appropriate Virgin Australia has been pulled up by the ACCC for drip pricing – hitting customers with fees they do not expect. That’s because while VA claims to have a premium product – “The Romance is Back” is one slogan – the reality is that Virgin has not moved beyond its low cost carrier roots despite the hype.
I say this after four recent flights with Virgin, the first I have taken with them since John Borghetti took over a few years ago when it began the supposed move upmarket. My observations are based on the following:
- Just a couple of check-in kiosks at Sydney domestic, no automated baggage option. A 30 to 40 minute queue for human service was the outcome the morning we were there.
- Same customers, same fares, different treatment: ie domestic leisure travellers still pay for food yet those flying the Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane business triangle get free food and drink. This says to leisure customers we do not like you as much as the suits.
- There’s no in-flight entertainment on its B737s unless you have a computer of some kind and a pre-loaded app. Therefore on a six hour flight between Sydney and Bali 95% of passengers played cards, started into space, read or slept. They had no movies to watch, games to play or music to listen. There were no tablets available for rent. It was a trip back in time.
- You only get one piece of checked luggage on an international service. Weight limit however remains same as international rivals at 35kg, which do not limit the number of bags. This is a sneaky way to do business and runs counter to accepted practice for full-service carriers, which Virgin is pretending to be on international flights.
So for me flying Virgin was not the experience I’d been led to believe it would be.
I wasn’t expecting anything amazing just an airline where I didn’t have to pay for food or bring my own entertainment or cram everything into a single bag.
For all the rhetoric, Virgin Australia remains a low cost carrier with identity issues.