Virgin Australia costs passenger $800 as check-in desk closes 'early'

Max Cameron feels wronged by the airline after receiving what he now believes was incorrect advice by email.

A Virgin Australia passenger was left $800 out of pocket after he arrived at a closed check-in desk despite arriving well within the allocated time prior to departure.

Max Cameron, 64, flies several times a week between Launceston airport in Tasmania and Melbourne for work, and was initially thrilled when the airline gave him a heads up that his flight was delayed back in January.

"I got a text and an email from Virgin saying, very sorry to let you know your plane has been delayed by 45 minutes," he recalled to Yahoo News Australia. The email instructed the check-in desk would close 30 minutes before the departure time, meaning he didn't need to get to the airport any earlier.

Virgin Australia passenger Max Cameron pictured at the airport.
Virgin Australia passenger Max Cameron missed his flight despite arriving within the allocated time detailed in an airline email. Source: Supplied/AAP

"I thought, well done Virgin. You've come through… you've let me know when I have to be there. And as a result, I got out to the airport at 9:25pm for a 9:45pm closure of check-in."

However when he arrived there was "literally not one person in the Virgin terminal" and despite his best efforts to find someone, he eventually had to leave. With no other option available, he says he had little choice but to buy another ticket for the following morning, as well as pay for accommodation and extra transport costs, amounting to $800.

"I put my tail between the legs, went back and bought another ticket. I was very annoyed about that but I had no choice... check-in closed early," he said.

Virgin passenger believes email error caused him to miss flight

After submitting an enquiry to the customer service team he was told he was required to arrive 30 minutes before the original departure time and was therefore late to check in his cases — a different instruction than the one he received in the revised departure time email.

The email read, 'Check-in will now close 30 minutes prior to this time'.

Despite pleading his case, the team said he would not receive any compensation and his enquiry was closed.

"I got a note back saying, 'Sorry, Mr Cameron, you didn't arrive prior to the check in time closing... we called for last cases and you didn't present'," he said. However, unsatisfied from the response, he spoke to a worker at the airport who suggested there may have been an error in the email.

"I'm at the airport four times a week so I went and spoke to the supervisor at the Virgin counter… and she said, 'Oh my God, it looks like they sent you the wrong email’," he said.

A Virgin Australia plane sitting on the tarmac at Sydney airport.
When it comes to flight cancellations, Virgin Australia has the worst record of any airline in the country. Source: AAP

Virgin 'lacks accountability', passengers says

After reaching out to Virgin Australia for further information Yahoo News understands Cameron likely did receive incorrect information which led to him missing his flight.

Cameron has since been in touch with the airline and is hopeful he will be reimbursed for his out-of-pocket expenses yet is still "unhappy" that he had to go to such lengths to evoke a response from Virgin.

"It's not the money but the lack of accountability... there is no service mentality anymore," he said.

"What Virgin has done to me is just so wrong".

In a report released by the Bureau of Infrastructure and Transport Research Economics it was revealed Virgin Australia cancelled 5.4 per cent of the 11,026 domestic flights flown in January — making it the airline with the most cancellations in the country. Virgin Australia recorded more than two times as many flight cancellations as both Jetstar and Qantas.

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