Virgin end summer flights to Tobago

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Steve Wooler
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Virgin end summer flights to Tobago

Post by Steve Wooler » Wed Dec 12, 2012 3:41 pm

It is with sadness that I Virgin have confirmed that they are to cease their summer flights to Tobago from the end of this 28th March 2013. At the moment, it is unconfirmed whether they will re-commence winter flights. Their press department assure me that the flight has not yet been fully cancelled.

Fortunately there is lots of capacity on the BA and Monarch services to Tobago. The Monarch service is now a direct flight since the decision by the Grenada government to stop subsidising the shared Tobago-Grenada service.

Words fail me regarding the total incompetence of the THA and it's related tourism department. Rather than ranting myself, let me quote from the Trinidad Guardian:
Tobago hoteliers are filled with anxiety and worry over what they are saying can spell the end of tourism in the island, its main revenue-earner. Tourism Minister Stephen Cadiz says Virgin Atlantic Airlines planned to pull its summer service to Tobago from March next year because of a lack of marketing support from the Tobago House of Assembly (THA).

Karl Pilstl, owner/managing director of Blue Haven, a 55-room five-star luxury hotel, Bacolet, said: “The formula is simple, no flights, no guests. I still can’t believe it is even being considered. If it is, it will mean the end of tourism in Tobago. The whole island, which depends on tourism, will be affected. “Fishermen, entertainers, taxi-drivers, those selling organic produce will lose their incomes. All hoteliers will tell you the same thing.”

Pilstl, begging for something to be put in place, recalled the good years of tourism in Tobago and said it had to do with plenty flights operating at the time. He said T&T’s Caribbean Airlines supported other islands in the region more than Tobago.

The hotelier said around this time, all his rooms were usually booked but now there were rooms available for the Christmas and New Year holidays.

Told that Tourism Minister Stephen Cadiz was blaming the THA for Virgin pulling out, he said: “We are at a stage where we should not be looking to throw blame on anyone. We need to act. We need to put something in place to prevent the terrible consequences this will have.”

Cadiz, in an earlier newspaper interview, said that blow to Tobago’s tourism industry could have been avoided if the THA had co-operated with his ministry.
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Re: Virgin end summer flights to Tobago

Post by Paul Tallet » Wed Dec 12, 2012 6:57 pm

Hang on a minute ... I have booked 6 for June 2013.

Does that mean my flights are cancelled?

It seems quite coincidental with all the wagering and threats being exchanged between Virgin and BA over their future existences.

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Re: Virgin end summer flights to Tobago

Post by Paul Tallet » Wed Dec 12, 2012 7:27 pm

I have been on the Virgin site and I can still book flights in June 2013.

And they have made no announcements of withdrawing from flights to Tobago at all.

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Re: Virgin end summer flights to Tobago

Post by Steve Wooler » Thu Dec 13, 2012 11:50 am

Hi Paul

Sorry for the delay in getting back to you, but I've been waiting for Virgin to get back to me. They did, but it raised more questions than answers and they've gone away to check and say they will get back to me 'shortly'. That was nearly 2 hours ago, so the following is my latest take on the situation:

The Virgin Press Office confirm that, for various reasons, summer services to Tobago are to be suspended. My contact didn't know the exact dates, but was of the opinion that there would be no Virgin service to Tobago between May and October 2013, inclusive. Apparently plans for Winter 2013/2014 have not been finalised, but it is hoped to resume the Tobago service at that time.

Now, they had no answer as to why the Virgin Atlantic online system appears to be still offering tickets to Tobago for next summer and/or when they are to notify customers who have already bought tickets for summer 2013. This is what they have gone away to check. I will obviously post an update here as soon as I have further information.

What a cock-up!!! It seems that its not only the THA who are incompetent.
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Re: Virgin end summer flights to Tobago

Post by Paul Tallet » Thu Dec 13, 2012 1:52 pm

Oh well ... Monarch and BA have flights available so I hope the Muppets at Virgin hurry up and tell us and pay the money back so I can sort it out.

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Re: Virgin end summer flights to Tobago

Post by Hugh S » Thu Dec 13, 2012 3:45 pm

Hopefully, if Virgin cancels a paid-for trip they will arrange for another flight . . . or am I dreaming?

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Re: Virgin end summer flights to Tobago

Post by Steve Wooler » Thu Dec 13, 2012 5:03 pm

Methinks someone is living in cloud cuckoo land! :)

No news yet. I've just fired off a reminder to their Press Office.

Just between the two of us, it wouldn't surprise me if this is bully-boy tactics by Virgin. Perhaps they are trying to apply pressure on the T&T/THA administration, possibly for flight subsidies or upgraded facilities or something. Perhaps they are showing their muscle and want the T&T government/tourism industry to think they've pulled the flights, but are continuing to sell tickets through their online system and reservation department in the hope that T&T will cave in and then they can continue as if nothing has happened. Trouble is, the poor punter is left in the xxxx when the tactic doesn't pay off and they are faced with having to deal with all those who have bought tickets already. Mind you, there should be plenty of availability with Monarch and BA next summer, so hopefully it will be nothing but an inconvenience to those affected. Still, it's a bad show by all concerned and, if true, tactics that I totally condemn. Nothing new for Virgin though; they've always complained so bitterly about BA's tricks but allegedly are just as bad; they're just a little less sophisticated about it.
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Re: Virgin end summer flights to Tobago

Post by Hugh S » Thu Dec 13, 2012 5:19 pm

I guess I have a soft spot for Sir Dick and expect better.

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Re: Virgin end summer flights to Tobago

Post by SueShard » Thu Dec 13, 2012 6:36 pm

I also have flights booked for next July. I have just been on the live chat bit with a Virgin representative who assures me that they know nothing about suspending flights next Summer and to quote "its buisness as usual next summer as far as flights go to Tobago" We will see.......

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Re: Virgin end summer flights to Tobago

Post by Paul Tallet » Thu Dec 13, 2012 7:57 pm

Hmmm ... well if Virgin's tricks backfire on them and they decide to pull out then I trust Monarch and BA will take an ethical approach and not raise their prices to take advantage of the situation.

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Re: Virgin end summer flights to Tobago

Post by Steve Wooler » Fri Dec 14, 2012 10:28 am

Nothing in this morning and my last correspondence from Virgin night stated:

[quote...... I think my information about possible dates of service suspension is not finalised so that is probably where I have caused some confusion.[/quote]

They have apologised for the delay and explained that it is possibly the busiest week in their history. As I said in my reply, it looks like Virgin has bitten off more than it can chew with this new Delta deal taking all their attention. What supreme arrogance! Clearly they have nothing but contempt for the people who have already bought flights to Tobago with Virgin for next summer.

Let's be perfectly clear about this: Virgin's own press office confirmed the suspension to me; even the Minister of Tourism in T&T is announcing the flight suspension; but Virgin are STILL selling tickets for the affected months and their reservation staff assuring travellers that the flights will be operating. Unbelievable! I am increasingly convinced this is just a power game Virgin tried to pull in the expectation that it would be resolved before the public became aware of the situation. Shame on you Branson!
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Re: Virgin end summer flights to Tobago

Post by Paul Tallet » Fri Dec 14, 2012 12:14 pm

Ok ... well I paid Virgin about £2,800 in October for 6 flights next June ... in good faith. I did this because Virgin were offering cut price tickets at the time.

I could go to Monarch and save about £600 or to BA which would cost an extra £1,000, so the choice is obvious.

But I cannot do that until Virgin make their announcement and give me my money back because, even if I can afford to do so, they might not cancel after all and I don't want to end up with 2 sets of tickets and a headache.

But Monarch and BA could well put up their prices if they see increased demand.

What I would like to see (if Virgin cancel) is Virgin reallocating our flights to BA (which is unlikely) or to Monarch with a refund for the difference in flights.

Ethically, that is the least Virgin should do. But I think they are asking for some customer dissent at the rate they are going.

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Re: Virgin end summer flights to Tobago

Post by Steve Wooler » Fri Dec 14, 2012 4:15 pm

Okay, this doesn't totally answer the questions, but it's the best we're going to get for the moment. This is the official response to my questions by Virgin Atlantic:
Virgin Atlantic can confirm following a normal business review of our operations we will be implementing some changes to our Caribbean schedules during 2013 summer season. We are in the process of finalizing these changes, including the effective dates.

Virgin Atlantic will be suspending flights to Tobago for a period of time over the next summer season. At this point, no final decisions have been taken about the date from which this will apply. As and when this is finalised, we will of course get in contact with affected passengers and trade partners and we are currently exploring options for accommodating those who are affected onto other services or with other carriers.

These are still challenging times for the airline industry, with external factors such as high fuel prices and the UK's APD tax, and we have to ensure that we deploy our aircraft to routes with the right level of demand to be financially viable.”
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Re: Virgin end summer flights to Tobago

Post by Paul Tallet » Fri Dec 14, 2012 10:44 pm

we are currently exploring options for accommodating those who are affected onto other services or with other carriers.
That's good enough for me ... I will go quietly with that proposal ... but that doesn't mean Mr Branson isn't a bearded skunk ... smile.

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Re: Virgin end summer flights to Tobago

Post by Paul Tallet » Sun Dec 16, 2012 2:11 pm

The latest is that the flights are still available but if you proceed to book it won't let you go any further.

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Re: Virgin end summer flights to Tobago

Post by Paul Tallet » Thu Dec 20, 2012 1:53 pm

At last ... something in the news ...


http://www.thetobagonews.com/news/Virgi ... 53151.html


I have not been informed by Virgin yet, with whom I booked my tickets directly ... there is speculation in the article that flights could be set up between Tobago and Barbados which Virgin are still servicing.

I note that all flights after March 2013 are no longer available ... but no official announcement other than what the Tobago News reports.

On a positive note I would happily do a day or 2 in Barbados on the way home if that can be arranged.

On a negative note I still think Mr Branson is a bearded skunk and I don't like being left hanging.

Have any of your secret agents anything else to report Steve?

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Re: Virgin end summer flights to Tobago

Post by Steve Wooler » Thu Dec 20, 2012 1:57 pm

Hi Paul

No news - but my senior contact in the Virgin Press Office has promised to let me know as soon as the dates of the summer suspension are decided and, be assured, I will post them here immediately.
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Re: Virgin end summer flights to Tobago

Post by Paul Tallet » Thu Dec 20, 2012 2:21 pm

Latest ...

I have contacted Virgin ... they have confirmed the cancellations from March 2013.

They have acknowledged my bookings and have asked for time as they work through the options which include:-

1. Another destination (but they won't pay the extra transfer)
2. Another flight operator

I can't imagine that Virgin would consider BA so I guess it is Monarch even if Monarch put on extra flights to take the extras.

They assure me they will contact us as soon as the options are clarified.

Mr Branson ... you are still a bearded skunk and I will consider my options carefully for my Christmas 2013 visit to Tobago ... I would rather support the operators that support their customers and Tobago all year round ... so you smile as you make your money and keep your options open at the unnecessary expense of others.

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Re: Virgin end summer flights to Tobago

Post by Steve Wooler » Fri Dec 21, 2012 11:00 am

Hi All

Here's the latest from Virgin:
We can confirm that we have taken the decision to shift some of our Caribbean capacity for the 2013 summer season, resulting in increased frequency to Barbados and temporarily stopping our Tobago service for the summer. These are still challenging times for the airline industry, with external factors such as high fuel prices and the UK's APD tax, and we have to ensure that we deploy our aircraft to routes with the right level of demand to be financially viable.
They advise me as follows:

• Virgin Atlantic has cancelled its VS51/52 (London Gatwick to Tobago) services on the following dates during summer 2013 season only: Monday 6th May to 21st October 2013 inclusive.

• Passengers are currently being contacted to advise them of the change to their flights.

• Passengers have three options:

o A refund of unused flights.
o To re-book to another Virgin Atlantic Destination at their convenience
o To re-book onto another airline to their original final ticketed destination (eg British Airways flight from Gatwick to Tobago)
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Re: Virgin end summer flights to Tobago

Post by Paul Tallet » Fri Dec 21, 2012 11:37 am

Wow ... I am surprised they will rebook to BA ... Virgin absolutely hate BA and it must be very embarrassing for Mr Branson to give them extra business after all the recent wagers about Virgin's future existence.

Could this be the writing on the Wall Mr Branson?

Thanks for the info Steve.

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