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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)