Virgin America Takes Off . . . Late

Virgin America

Current events have really helped me stick with the “delay” theme this week. As most people know, Virgin America’s first flights take off today. The plan was to have a flight from JFK and another from LAX land in San Francisco at the same time. That doesn’t look like it’s going to happen.

A big group of storms hit JFK this morning causing painful delays, as usual. This article notes that Fred Reid, head of the airline for a couple more months, didn’t make it in time for the ceremony due to the bad weather. The plane was christened “Air Colbert” after the inventor of the word “truthiness” and host of The Colbert Report, Steven Colbert, but he was apparently also delayed by traffic.

Far worse than the delay itself (that happens), Virgin America, which has promised to be customer-service oriented, appears to already be falling down on the job when it comes to customer information. When you go to the airline’s website and look for flight information, it shows this:

07_08_08 vxontime

It’s 1130a now on the east coast, one hour and thirty minutes after scheduled departure time, and the plane still shows as being scheduled on-time. Not good. If you go to FlightAware, you’ll see under JFK airport activity that the flight departed at 1050a. You only have two flights today. Is it that hard to keep people updated on what’s happening?

That’s certainly a black eye for an airline that likes to talk the big talk about customer service. This USA Today article, points out that “Virgin America’s service will be less grand than the lavish international service offered on Virgin Atlantic, Reid said in an interview. Nonetheless, he promises the best customer service in the business.”

If you’re stuck at JFK waiting for your delayed flight (they’re ALL delayed this morning), you can pass the time by reading the rest of that lengthy article. You may notice I was quoted in there as a “former airline marketing executive.” Sweet – I guess they consider manager roles to be executive positions. I’m waiting for my stock options to appear.

Enough about today’s problems. This airline has been in the works for several years. Congrats to everyone who has slaved over the startup phase of the airline. I’m sure it’s going to feel great to see those planes passing the windows at the headquarters building on their way into SFO today. Now the fun begins. Can the airline make it work? I’ll grab some popcorn and watch eagerly to find out. Let me know if you’ve been onboard. I’d like to hear first impressions.

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Cranky Flier