The Sound of Two Toilets Flushing: Constructive Criticism for Virgin Atlantic Complaints Department

I recently had the experience of flying from London to Johannesburg and back with Virgin Atlantic. The good news was that it was the cheapest flight available and that the take off and landing were absolutely perfect. Hence I really have no reason to complain.

Instead, I'd like to offer some constructive criticism which hopefully Richard Branson will find sometime while googling his name. Or maybe someone from the Virgin Atlantic Complaints Department will find it, whatever, just want to put this information out there.

  • Arrangement of restroom facilities. Maybe next time you design an airplane, consider not putting your toilets at a right angle right next to your rows of seats. Being able to reach, without even needing to stretch your arm, from your seat to close, yet again, a toilet door that someone, someone obviously sitting very far from the toilets, carelessly forgot to close is not an indicator of quality interior design. Have you noticed how all other airplanes have their toilets in a cubicle separated from the rows of seats? On those airplanes, people sitting in the seats near the toilets are not constantly being woken up throughout the night whenever someone enters/exits the toilet, whenever the light in the toilet is suddenly switched on, and whenever one of the toilets flushes. Bonus points for Virgin Atlantic passengers in the seats adjoining the toilets is when multiple toilets are flushed simultaneously and multiple passengers enter/exit them at the same time, a bit like an unasked for low budget musical of suddenly illuminated grumpy people in crumpled clothes. What joy that brings at 3 AM is hard to describe.

  • Seats with extra leg room. You know how other airplanes have the seats with the extra leg room? You know what those seats tend to have? Extra leg room. It's really interesting how Virgin Atlantic's seats with extra leg room actually have no extra leg room at all. It should have been a give away, the fact that these special seats are found in the same rows as the standard seats, rather than on the cusp of real glory which is where most airlines put their extra leg room seats, with the only actual difference being that they have a slightly different color. Had you called them "seats with a different color" (i.e., almost not quite green, rather than something vaguely hinting at blue), at least I'd have known what I was getting. Picture the joy at 3 AM, rudely awakened from nightmarish slumber, partly grateful to have been released from a grayish dream of faceless zombies resembling one or two of those in a recent toilet line, by multiple adjoining toilets flushing simultaneously, while you're sitting in a seat with extra leg room that has exactly as much leg room as the seats in neighboring rows. You then have a choice of things to be sincerely annoyed about.

  • Food from the '80's. In the '80's, airplane food came in soggy containers and even breakfast, the most important meal of the day, was a sad heap of vaguely gray colors. The culinary highlight tended to be a squashed tomato, which must have been mashed to a pulp with a brick prior to being regurgitated by a small furry animal, and there was also always a piece of immensely horrid pumpkin, as well as a slice of spongy something you'd never seen before. Sausages and mash at 6 AM on an airplane was always a heavy lump of horribleness. Thankfully, all airlines throughout the world changed from this puke inducing strategy around 1987 sometime. Not Virgin Atlantic, of course. The fatty sausages and mash are still there, bringing you flashbacks to Duran Duran, which is what you were listening to (on your walkman) the last time you saw it in an airplane. Even the golden oldie "squashed tomato attached by slime of small furry animal to three wet peas" is on the menu. How wonderful to have all this in a cramped seat with a long row of early morning bleariness lined up for the toilets, right at your side, bumping into your elbow, groggily, one by one, one after another, more and more, fumble-open-door-silence-flush-fumble-open-door, and on and on, while you tentatively push your fork through a soggy pile of colorless mush, fighting the urge to throw up on the stinky socks of whatever nightmarish zombie is bumping into your elbow at the time.

But, then again, the plane landed without a hitch, in fact, extremely smoothly, so I'm certainly not blaming the pilots.


A lot is said about "extra legroom" on Virgin, I experienced exactly the opposite with this airline. Traveled to the UK early August, returned early Sept both on VS601. The flight to the UK was economy but bearable so I booked the same seat. What a disaster. Cattle class had been converted to sardine class. My space was so limited that I could not reach my shoes do undo the laces. There was so little room between me and the seat in front the I could not hold my paperback in front of me, so I had to hold it above my head to read it. The cabin attendant offered no explanation for the change, was completely unsympathetic to my distress, and refused to find me a different seat. I suffered 11 hours of total discomfort and ended up a few days later in hospital with suspected DVT, had to undergo a Cat scan and several Xrays to find out that my stomach had been pushed up into my lung space, creating a hernia which now has to be operated on. Added to this was a partially dislocated right shoulder, now classed as "degenerated" with a pinched nerve and the associated spasms and pain.
Never with Virgin again, I can assure you. I would rather walk to London if Virgin was the only alternative.

Posted by Ludi on November 24, 2012 at 02:17 AM PST #

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Geertjan Wielenga (@geertjanw) is a Principal Product Manager in the Oracle Developer Tools group living & working in Amsterdam. He is a Java technology enthusiast, evangelist, trainer, speaker, and writer. He blogs here daily.

The focus of this blog is mostly on NetBeans (a development tool primarily for Java programmers), with an occasional reference to NetBeans, and sometimes diverging to topics relating to NetBeans. And then there are days when NetBeans is mentioned, just for a change.


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