Marvels 1 – Virgin Trains East Coast
I can’t speak for all of Virgin’s services, I have in fact sued Virgin Media (and won by settlement), on a previous occasion, but I can indeed speak for the executive team of Virgin Trains East Coast, who – on more than one occasion – have gone out of their way to ensure my satisfaction and keep my business. I think the effort that VTEC put in on this occasion massively outweighs the value of my travels to Aviemore, and therefore I want to publicise my experience.
This was my complaint:
I initially had a return journey booked on Tuesday 10th April from Aviemore to London, which I subsequently amended to Friday 13th April, due to being unwell and unable to travel. Unfortunately I was further still unable to travel on Friday, and have since made it back to London by car.
Unfortunately it seems I cannot get a refund on my unused ticket. The Trainline app (screenshot attached), gives me a refund option but then claims that advance tickets are non-refundable. This is unreasonable to me because it was not a fault of my own that I could not travel and when amending the booking, I was not made aware that the ticket could not be refunded by the telephone operator.
I feel it is my consumer right to be entitled to a refund on anything that I’ve paid for that has not been used/delivered as requested. I did call ahead of the amended return journey to notify the Trainline staff that I could not travel, who subsequently told me that they would cancel the ticket (something which I never received a written confirmation for).
I do not have *value removed* to throw around, and I would rather sacrifice a further £35 to submit a small claim to HMCTS if this ticket cannot be refunded.
Trainline claims that they cannot offer refunds due to terms outlaid by the supplier (in this case Virgin Trains East Coast), so I am copying you both in to try and get to the bottom of it.
I travel up to Aviemore every year by train, and I feel let down by the lack of consumer protection on my train ticket on this occasion, as well as what is arguably completely unfair terms and conditions. My notification to Trainline was given with plenty notice for the same seat to be resold (and I cannot prove that it was not – only you will know this).
I dearly hope that someone can get in touch with me to clear this up.
The result of all this was that Virgin executives immediately ordered Trainline to refund my tickets (which they did), further, I was awarded a first class anytime ticket to anywhere on the East Coast line…
The reply from Virgin’s executive team looked like this:
Thank you again for your correspondence to *name removed*, regarding your experience while using the services of Virgin Trains East Coast, and in particular the problems encountered when trying to make a claim for a cancelled journey.
Firstly, I am naturally concerned to read of how your problem has been addressed by our Customer Teams throughout the business, and the failure on their part to respond appropriately and in a timely manner. As a business we pride ourselves on the level of service we offer and on this occasion we have clearly not achieved this. Please accept my sincere apologies and I would like to assure you that your comments will be passed to the appropriate managers of each department involved in your case, to ensure action is taken in regards to the people involved in the handling of your communications, including any necessary retraining that may be required.
In order to bring your outstanding claim to a speedy resolution, I am happy on this occasion to arrange for a BACs transfer to you in cash to the value of your ticket to the value of *value removed*. Virgin Trains East Coast cash refunds are now made by direct bank transfer, therefore in order for me to process this quickly please can you forward the relevant bank sort code and account number to myself and I will arrange for a BACs payment to be made. Please also forward a copy of your booking confirmation or unused ticket which is required for audit purposes.
In addition, and in view of the difficulties in resolving your case, I would like to offer you a complimentary First Class return tickets for use anywhere on the Virgin Trains East Coast network. The ticket is valid for 12 months from the date of issue and when you are ready to book please do let me know and I will arrange seat reservations for you and ensure a pleasant journey. If you could confirm your home address I will send the relevant travel documents to you in the next few days.
I trust that the above gesture is acceptable and thank you once again for taking the time to write to us, customer feedback is important and something we look at closely when reviewing the services we offer.
With kind regards,
To me, this seems genuinely one of the best ways to deal with the situation. I cannot stress enough how impressed I am with the above response. This is the kind of customer service that every company should strive for. I can only think of a handful of companies this large or larger (e.g., Amazon), who really go to this level to resolve complaints. They could have just as easily told me to fuck off.
I will be sending the executive office a very gracious hamper in the next few weeks to say thank you. It is ultimately not the cost of my travels that concerns me, but the principal of my consumer rights and the right to be refunded on something that my money was not spent on.