SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5) — A new reservation system at Virgin America has created monumental headaches for the airline and its passengers.

The new system launched in October. Some customers say they have not been able to book flights online, leading them to spend hours waiting on the phone.

A CBS 5 producer tried booking a flight from San Francisco to San Diego. After choosing outbound and inbound flights and seats, a “loading” screen displayed for a few minutes followed by an error message saying the flights chosen were no longer available.

Brent Wilcox, a CBS 5 viewer, had a similar experience. Wilcox told ConsumerWatch he had to sit through Virgin America’s customer service recordings dozens of times in an attempt to book a ticket. After nearly a month since his initial call, Wilcox had to turn to a travel agent to book his trip.

“I’m very, very angry. For seven good days at least ten times each day, I was put on hold for a minimum of 18 minutes to an hour and 22 minutes,” Wilcox said.

Wilcox is hardly alone. Dozens of similar complaints have been posted online from Virgin America customers who have spent as many as 11 hours on hold, unable to reach a customer service representative.

According to Virgin America, they are working around the clock to resolve the web issues and have increased staffing an extra 45 percent. The airline said as of Monday, hold times are down to an average of 15-23 minutes, while some customers are still experiencing problems.

Virgin America has also solved customer issues via Twitter. The company said it has resolved 12,000 customer service issues through direct messages on the social networking site.

For Wilcox, tweets won’t solve anything. He does not have an internet connection, let alone a Twitter account. Using a travel agent to book his flight, he paid an extra $30. Wilcox said he wanted a public apology.

Virgin America has offered Wilcox a free upgrade to first class. The airline has also offered all of it Elevate frequent flyer members free flights whether or not they were affected by the web problems and it is also waiving all cancelation and change fees.

There is no word on a national apology, but the company has directly apologized to all passengers who were inconvenienced.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

Comments (10)
  1. Sean says:

    I actually had the same problem with their website. I then had to call and make the reservation by phone. And the lady was nice enough to waive the $40 phone booking fee since I tried on the website.

    Also, checking in at LAX is a frigging nightmare. Checking in beforehand or at one their kiosks saves zero time because you still have to wait in the regular line to drop off your luggage.

    That being said, the plane was very nice and you can order beer from your seat and the Flight Attendant brings it to you. Nothing like getting toasted at 30k feet in the air!

  2. W, San Francisco says:

    As of Feb 3, it’s still chaos. Try using a credit (from your “Travel Bank Account”). You get an error message (of course – it’s Virgin America) and then you get bounced out – having wasted 15 mins choosing flights and seats. This is my 2nd flight on Virgin in 14 days. For the first booking I finally had to use a human after 45 mins of Internet hell. I’m currently on hold to try to make the second. Once my credit is used, I’m out of here. I never thought I’d miss United…

  3. Jim B. says:

    Sadly booking with Virgin America is now hell-on-earth whereas it used to be fine. VA should seriously take issue with Sabre over the move to the new booking platform.

  4. Michael Dabney says:

    February 6: No answer to calls, no answer to web mail, ni answer to snail mail to e executives, messed up records on web site.

    Regarding a double-booking I made because of this problem, I have finally called it quits: I went to AMEX and disputed a December charge. Next step: BBB complaint.

    I am an elevate member and have received NO APOLOGY or offer of any kind.

  5. CBS 5 ConsumerWatch says:

    It seems this is still a problem. Have you had trouble? Email us at

    1. Michael Dabney says:

      Trouble, yes: airline does not answer the telephone. Snail mail to Consumer Affairs gets no response. Snail mail to executives gets no response. Mail thru web site gets no response. The mess prompted me to double book, and when an effort to fix this by calling was stonewalled, I now wasn’t both reservations refunded: one with cash and one with miles. One of the bookings does not even appear in my record, which was the original source of confusion. I now have NO FAITH in this carrier. The paid reservation charge was disputed and next I will file a complaint with BBB in Burlingame.

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