We have a lot to get through so let’s not waste time. Take it as read that I’m a first world problem, holiday obsessed idiot with no awareness of the real problems going on around me.
The week began in a maelstrom of self-doubt and second-guessing. As soon as I pressed the button (metaphorically) to change our trip everything suddenly seemed to be getting a lot better very quickly.
This, of course, was just my perception and a reaction to having made the call, but it did not stop me persecuting myself. I’m not often right in my predictions but my spider-sense was absolutely spot on with regards to Virgin. Their website promises a joyously seamless experience should you wish to move your booking to a new date. I feared this was bollocks and I was very correct.
I emailed them and got no response within the 48 hours promised so I resorted to messaging them. What followed was a text message conversation that lasted longer than a 13-year-old talking to his first crush.
It may well have been that I just struck unlucky with my agent, but I don’t know what happened. It was a mess. I understand many agents are working from home and they may be worried about their jobs and long term future with Virgin of course, but it won’t stop me moaning about it like a man-baby.
It didn’t start well as their first reply to my initial message confirmed that my booking had been moved to the 26th of August. I pointed out those were my original dates and could they move it to the 1st of March as I’d requested. I was then told to go online and do that. If the agent knew anything about me at all they would have known that I would do almost anything to avoid dealing with a human being if an online alternative exists, but I patiently explained there was no option to change my booking to new dates online, or else, I would have done that before emailing and texting them.
Having run a dummy booking on their site for our new dates I saw that I could get Premium both ways for a few hundred quid more so I requested that. Apparently, when booking that via a person it comes with a slight surcharge of £425 each. Not wanting to prolong this agony I told them to just move the thing as it was to the new dates. This was just the beginning of the longest run of changing facts since the Vote Leave campaign.
Next, I was told there were no seats in the cabin we had booked on our outbound flight and there would be a price difference to pay as we’d have to go “Economy Delight” rather than “Classic”. I asked how much that would be and/or if the next day’s flight had better availability.
Some time passed and I was then told I’d be better off getting back to them “later” as they’d know more then what might be available. “Later” seemed to mean closer to our original departure date. How unavailable seats become available “later” wasn’t clearly explained. I explained I could not do that as I had a million other moving parts of this trip, some of which were holding dates for me and I just wanted to move the booking as promised on their web site.
I was getting tetchy at this point and having run that dummy booking on their web site, I could see a load of empty “Classic” seats. When I pointed this out, suggesting several rows that I’d be happy with, suddenly they miraculously found some too and, good news, they could be mine for just £145 extra…each. I declined, questioning why I needed to pay extra for the same cabin I had on my existing booking.
Amazingly, now they went back to insisting there were no “equivalent” seats on the outbound again and I would need to pay them lots of money. I asked about a refund. All I got was a standard reply saying I had to email another address and refunds would take a lot longer then the 90-day rule says it should. Confused? So was I.
I enquired why they were inventing extra charges. They said they were not, and they just had no equivalent cabin seats and I would need to upgrade. Pointing out that the dummy booking I was looking at was actually cheaper than the price I paid for our original dates they said they could not price match to the web site as it gave a discount. I do love a consistent brand experience across their various channels. You can’t beat a company’s website competing against their own call centre agents to give customers a warm glow. I said I did not want a price match, I wanted them to book us some of the available Classic seats I had already paid for and I could see lots of online.
Then I was told that I didn’t have Classic on my original booking (even though I could see it on their website that I did).
Apparently, they suddenly decided to tell me that I had OSCAR reservations which were promotional and funnily enough my new dates did not qualify for that promotion so I would need to pay another £900 if I changed to the new dates.
So the only option I now seemed to have was to apply for an open ticket as apparently then I could make my own new booking on their website. I abandoned the text conversation at that point and I filled out the form on their web site requesting that my booking be converted into an open ticket. This was Tuesday, four days after we decided to move the flight and we were still no further forward. Those who know me at all will understand that this would not be good for my planning obsessed, uncertainty allergic state of mind.
Much time passed and nothing happened. The form told me that I could relax now and, although it may take a few days they would sort it all out and come back to me.
They did not come back to me.
By Saturday I was stressed out, anxious and angry. I’d already moved the theme park tickets to next year, investing in a new one for Freddie who will be three next March and I had the villa holding our new dates, now, for over a week. I had a Frankenstein of a trip, made up of two different sets of dates and nobody at Virgin cared one jot.
On Saturday afternoon I decided enough was enough and I did something I never do. I phoned them. I had to wait 90 minutes listening to Bitter Suite Symphony by the Verve, before getting through to someone. Melanie, the agent I was connected to was Welsh, lovely, professional, efficient and understanding.
Not that I have anywhere else to take my Trans Atlantic business in future, but she restored my faith in the company I have to fly with.
Within ten minutes the dates were changed. Did I have to pay the extra £900? Nope. There was no charge to amend the booking of course, but there was, for reasons I didn’t understand or care enough to get into at this stage, a £30 per person fare difference. This would be more than compensated for by the £210 refund I was due for the bubble seats we’d upgraded to that no longer existed. I did have to pay the extra there and then and wait about six months for the refund, but all in all, after the angst of the week just gone, I took that as a victory. I did have one last concern.
With the dates now moved, I had a fear that my request to convert my booking into an open ticket (remember that?) would still be carried out. Melanie assured me she would add notes to my booking so that would not happen. As much as I want to believe my new friend Melanie, I hope that works out.
Immediately I could see the new details on their web site and I was able to book seats and meals. It was a relief.
With that in place, I could now move through the other required changes like a virus at a protest. Of course, everyone wanted their extra pound of flesh. I could change the villa booking online as that was with Airbnb. I had been messaging the owner and I did again to query whether the chunky extra fee I was being shown was valid and they really would charge me that. It was and they did.
I booked the Hard Rock for our new dates and again, the prices now quoted were significantly higher than the ones for this August. I also requested our original booking was cancelled. Travel Republic allows you to book with a very low deposit with free cancellation right up until the booking, so surely that will all be straightforward. Right?
I have messaged USRentaCar to move our booking to March. The same intuition that told me Virgin would be a shit show also tells me there will be more money heading their way for the privilege. I will, of course, let you know.
I emailed our airport taxi, and that change was the least painful of them all with an immediate reply saying that was all OK with no mention of extra costs. There’s time for that I suppose. I even messaged my nephew Jack who house and dogs sits for us and booked him for the new dates.
So I think we’re all sorted now, or as sorted as we need to be at this stage.
Having found it so hard to make the change, I did feel an unexpected sense of relief at having done so. I did get a cold shiver after seeing the new dates for the flights on the My Booking part of Virgin’s site. It was a sudden horrific confirmation that I wouldn’t be there this August, but overall, I feel it’s probably the right thing to do.
This view has been confirmed slightly by the case numbers in Florida spiking over the last few days of course. They do seem to be rising quite dramatically and were we still planning to go at the end of August that would be stressing me right out.
There’s some suggestion that the extra positive cases are a result of increased testing, but that, from the Republican Governor hell-bent on re-opening seems like a bit of a stretch.
Disney is publishing more detail on resort and park rules and I’m more convinced than ever that we wouldn’t be getting into a Disney park every time we might want to so I suppose that is some consolation.
Now, I can concentrate on stressing about what things will be like next March of course. I just pray there is a vaccine between now and then.
It’s been a week I wouldn’t wish to repeat and now you just have to endure me papping on about this trip for the next 267 days or so. Enjoy!
Till the next time……