Guy Weber writes:

Either Virgin Blue has a problem or Sydney Airports Corporation has one. Travelling from Sydney recently I checked in and, with boarding pass in hand, proceeded to Gate 31. Lo and behold, nobody was boarding – and around 25 minutes until scheduled departure. Monitors listed the flight as on time.

Great, a chance to get a bottle of water and a bite to eat before heading off.

A few minutes later, no change to the monitor. Must be running late. With the duopoly members you have around a one in ten chance of their aircraft being late at any given time. (Virgin measures “late” as being a departure within 15 minutes of its scheduled time. It would be interesting to see what their real on-time performance was if they measured “on-time” like everyone else in the world. Qantas, I hasten to add, is even worse).

About ten minutes to go before the scheduled departure time and still no change to any monitor. OK, better check this out at the gate. Arrive to see the aircraft heading off. That’s inconvenient. Now my on-time record is as bad as theirs. And I was not the only one missing a flight.

Check with Virgin staff.

V: “You should have been at the gate.” Probably right, but this is the real world.
GW: “Just went to get something to eat and drink and there was no change on the monitor.”
V: “We paged you.”
GW: “Didn’t hear anything.”
V: “Not throughout the airport, here at the gate lounge.”
GW: “That’s handy.”
V: “We don’t do airport-wide calls.”
GW: “Why not?”
V: “We just don’t.”
GW: “Does Qantas?”
V: “Well, you should have been here.”
GW: “Quite right, but then what point are the monitors?”
V: “We don’t operate them, Sydney Airports Corporation operate those.”
GW: “So, we can’t rely on the monitors?”
V: “No.”

If you are using Virgin, always be at the gate, all the time, because you rarely, if ever, get advance notice of delays, or refunds for delays, on the part of Virgin. Rather than reissue the ticket for the next flight, they simply bank the money and charge you for another ticket. And do not rely upon Sydney Airport Corporation’s monitors. Virgin says they are not to be relied upon.

Peter Vicary, SACL media head, responded to enquiries regarding this, advising that yes, SACL did operate the screens, but they were reliant upon airlines for updates. Qantas provides theirs electronically; Virgin by fax, apparently intermittently.

On balance you’d be inclined to think this is a Virgin problem, although why SACL allows a situation to continue where it cannot provide accurate aircraft and gate details to the travelling public is concerning. Makes you wonder about airport security standards too.

Peter Fray

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