The image itself is real. On the day I traveled, it appeared every few seconds on the many monitors hanging all around the Virgin Australia public areas at LAX. I took this photo there.
It was the constant lie I had to endure as I was abandoned by them on a cold, rainy night; the night I lost my “Virginity” at LAX.
The oh-so-charming, creative Sir Richard Branson has founded many Virgins. There’s music publishing company Virgin Records, followed by Virgin Music Stores, Virgin Cola, Virgin Blue, Virgin Airlines and Virgin America Airlines. This past November he began offering Virgin Australia or, as their printed materials and signs usually have it, Vaustralia. Whilst some of his Virgins have enjoyed great success, a significant number of them have failed.
It is implicit that when a virgin fails, someone gets fucked.
It may have been an overlooked clue that the new airline’s logo offers the V in Vaustralia in the form of a Scarlet Letter.
Oh, had I but paid closer attention.
The reasons for the abysmal failure rate of Virgin This and Virgin That, became clear recently, when I bought – and paid dearly – for their public relations hype. The slogan currently displayed prominently at the LAX check-in counter particularly galls me. It says,“No Passengers; Just Guests.”
I would have settled for being a passenger on the flight I paid for and arrived at LAX check-in with plenty of time for me to walk from there to the plane door. As it happened, I was not a guest that night on Virgin. I was not even a passenger.
I was a paying customer in a ratty nearby hotel, at my own trouble and expense.
The problem is that, unknown to me, and many people, Virgin has a policy not found in the rules of any other major carrier. Check-in is closed 60 minutes prior to flight time. If you show up with only 59 minutes remaining, you will be turned away.
It doesn’t matter if you have a confirmed ticket and an assigned seat, or if you were delayed en route on a connecting flight, both of which were my situation that night. It does not matter that you are 77 years old and in light-weight clothing while one of the coldest, fiercest rainstorms to ever hit the area is flexing the large glass windows. You will be denied a boarding pass.
There were still 45 minutes left when I stepped up to the counter. I later learned that due to that bad storm outside, the plane actually didn’t leave for more than another 1/2-hour beyond it’s scheduled time. So, in reality, I had an hour an a quarter to walk a few hundred yards to the gate where they had not even started boarding the other passengers.
What help can you look for from their counter people? None. Worse than that, they are downright rude and abusive. After quoting the 60-minute rule to me, they simply turned away and walked though the door to the back room, never to return.
My requests for help finding a hotel room, or to send a message to the people who would be waiting for my arrival in Australia were ignored.
With that, you are fucked because the way that terminal is laid out, you are in an area that is open only as long as their counter is open.
Standing in the Vaustralia checkin area, you are not actually inside the terminal, past security, where there are lounge areas, shops, rest rooms, phones, hotel room desks and places to eat. You may enter only if you have a boarding pass – which they have just denied you. You must leave the building and cannot return until the next day.
That’s how I lost my “virginity.”
UPDATE Mid-March 2010: Virgin America, sister company of Virgin Australia, just put a plane full of people, including elderly and women and children through a 16-hour ordeal on the ground. That’s yet another meaning of the promise threat, “No Passengers; Just Guests.”
Among the many reports of how those prisoners guests were treated by the crew, is the published quote allegedly spoken by a crew member to a starving woman who was begging for one of the cookies that were rationed out, “Sit down and shut up.”
UPDATE Early December 2010: See how they screwed a first class passenger and his wife. http://silentbobspeaks.com/?p=398