Friday, September 17, 2010

Dear Virgin America

Dear VirgAm,

I'm a little peeved with you.  Overall I think you're a good airline. I like your planes, the entertainment system, WiFi capability, and the ability to order drinks and food with a credit card from the comfort of my seat. 

However, the last time we flew with you, your staff made us feel like No-Fly List Criminals because we brought our dogs.  And this after we shell out $400, roundtrip, for the privilege of shoving our dogs underneath the seats in front of us.

First, you request a veterinary certification that our dog is older than 8 weeks old, up to date on vaccines, and spayed/neutered.  Fine (except the spayed/neutered part--what the hell do you care? I mean, do you think one of them is going to impregnate or conceive with a human on a flight? You're gross).  We don't mind when someone at the check-in counter says: "May I see the health certificate?" That's fine. On the other hand, I don't like so much the tone and implication of: "I'm going to need to see your health certificate" as if I'm trying to sneak into the country without a passport and with illicit narcotics.  What probably added to my annoyance was the subsequent 10-minute scrutiny of said health certificate.  It was about 3 sentences long, in English and using proper grammar.

Then there was the time that your check-in clerk told my husband that what he gave to her was a health certificate (which is what you ask for on your website), not a vaccination record, and she is not sure she can let my husband or dog on the plane without the vaccination record.  Really? The fucking health certificate states that the dog is up to date on vaccines. Perhaps she cannot read.  My husband felt powerless at the time to point out that it was the health certificate that we were required to bring, because, as stated, she had just implied that she might prevent him and our dog from going home.  He didn't want to piss her off into detaining him in some windowless, dank room.

Said clerk also asked my husband to show her the dog, like turning his pockets inside out to make sure he hadn't shoplifted any extra luggage tags or a headset.  I don't mind so much the wanting to see the dog (to, you know, make sure it wasn't decaying or something from an airborne disease), but the reason she wanted to see the dog was so that she could look at it, cock her head, and say, in very embarrassing baby talk:

"Now you make sure you tell your daddy that you need to go to wee-wee before getting on the plane, because it is a looong flight."

I did not appreciate her talk patronizingly to my husband, especially THROUGH OUR DOG (it was also a bit befuddling).  Breaking news: the dog can't understand what you're saying. Furthermore, I don't believe it's in our interest to have our dog piss and shit in her carrier. That might be a stretch, but I'm just putting it out there (please note sarcasm). So it's odd to me that the clerk felt it necessary to suggest to us, the dog owners who have had the personal and up-front pleasure of dealing with our dog's piss and shit for years, that we should take her to "wee-wee".  As if it could not have *possibly* occurred to us on our little own selves that taking her out to "wee-wee" before a flight just might be a bright idea.

Also, I do not understand the purpose of the health certificate.  Okay, I'll concede to checking on the rabies vaccination, but the other vaccinations are for diseases not transmutable to humans.  Human passengers--you know, the ones that usually carry germs that can infect each other--are not asked for a health certificate.  You let sick people on the plane all the time.  A person with tuberculosis got on some plane (U.S. Airways, I believe), for goodness' sake.  I don't see airlines screening for TB, the flu, or the common cold.  I'm not sure why dogs are singled out for this very special treatment.  I think it's because it's more logistically feasible since there are not many pets who travel.  I also think it's simply because you can, and it makes you feel all justified and official in patting down our pugs.  Our aggressive, deadly pugs (note the oxymoron).

Second, the millisecond we stepped on the plane for one leg of the trip, a flight attendant marched towards us determinedly like a soldier on a mission with a Very Serious look on her face, rushing through her urgent words "So you're the ones with the dogs, rightwellyouknowthattheyhavetobekeptinthecarriersandzippedthewholetimeunderneaththeseatsi frontofyou." Again, it wasn't so much what she said, but her manner and tone.  As if we were bringing an explosive device on the plane and she wanted to make sure that we knew not to detonate it during the flight. 

Third--and face it, the above would not be cause for so much irritation without this part--I strongly and vehemently hate, yes I said hate, that you make us pay $100 for a one-way trip, for each dog.  When I tell people this, the first question is, "So is the dog in addition to your two carry-ons?" Well, no, it isn't, although that would make a whole lot more sense and be much more fair, for that amount of money.  The dog counts as a carry-on.

Exactly what am I paying for? The dog does not take up any extra space in the plane.  A child 2 and under can fly for free, because he/she does not take any extra space.  I notice no particular extra effort, work or courtesy on the part of your staff stemming from my $100, so I would like an explanation of why the fee exists.

If you say it's because of increased operating costs, seriously, I will hit you.  If you are hoping to improve your operating costs on the backs of the very few owners with pets that fly your airline, might I suggest looking into an alternate strategy that may actually make sense, as opposed to the current one employed.

I have a suspicion that you charge the fee simply because you can.  There's no AARP for pets to argue our side. You oppressor.

Our recent trip with you was a mostly condescending experience.  To pay an extra $400 per roundtrip and not receive anything but normal treatment given to other passengers is insulting, when it costs nothing to you, your staff, and the other passengers.

I don't hate you.  Although my husband refuses to fly with you anymore.

Please reconsider your policy on pets and the training you provide for your staff.  As it stands now, I imagine that the training consists of a military instructor standing at the front of the room with a picture of a menacing dog with the word "Evil and Dangerous" scrawled along the top in blood.  At the bottom is written the mantra "If Possible, Be Condescending and Treat Like Criminals At All Times".

I know not every staffperson has or will buy into this brainwashing rhetoric, and some staff will be quite nice. I just wish we had run into more of them on this recent trip.


P.S. Don't tell me that I should be so lucky to travel with my pets on a plane.  Because I used to travel with my pets when the fee was $50, which I could handle (despite still not understanding the airline's reasons).  I don't see what has changed that I'm now so super lucky that I get to pay $100.  


  1. Ugh, what a huge pain in the ass!! And, the baby talk? I would have died. I can just imagine your face when she said that. And, I'm with you on the people health certificate thing. I've definitely sat next to sickly humans before and I was far more offended than if a dog was under the seat.

  2. Ugh, so annoying! I hope you sent a strongly worded letter (like the one above) to Richard Branson.

  3. I certainly don't know any explosive, evil, dangerous and disease ridden pugs but Virgin America obviously has. I can't believe they charge that obscene amount to put them under a seat. I'm with bigapplenosh, send that letter onward!

  4. oh do not even me started... the airline rhetoric is that the containment of pets is for the health of other passengers. notwithstanding the fact that most animal viruses are not communicable to humans, with a few exceptions (such as rabies, which I think most pet-owners would agree is not in their best interest to harbor in their pets). and in the scattered cases of those who are truly death-inducingly allergic to animals, it is a simple matter of said allergic individual to avoid the temptation of crawling down on all fours, shoving the pet owners' legs aside, and accessing the pet trapped under the seat to deeply inhale its coat -- not to mention that these allergic individuals are at far more risk from the animal dander present on the clothes of their random seatmates.

  5. yes, please tell me you sent that somewhere where they will see it! policies aside, the attitude of the staff is really, really unnecessary. grrr.

  6. Oh, they totally charge those fees JUST because they can. We recently took our dogs on vacation with us, and hotels were charging $10 -$50 per dog, some per NIGHT for no reason at all. A lot of them tried to play it off as an extra cleaning fee. Tell me the last time anyone had a really clean hotel room. And, I'm sorry, but is there a special way that you vacuum dog hair as opposed to normal vacuuming (which you should be doing regardless of whether I'm staying with a dog or not)? Because I vacuum just like any normal person at home even though I live with three furry I don't see your reasoning here. They also had restrictions on weight, and a plethora of even more ridiculous rules. The cabin we ended up staying in ruled that the dogs were not allowed on the bed or couches... yea right. Like that's SO easy to do. These companies claim to be "pet friendly" but if you ask me when you charge all these ridiculous fees, and have such ludicrous rules and requirements, that is anything but "friendly." If these places are going to charge extra fees, and have extra rules for pets, they should do the same for children, because children are just as (if not more) noisy, disgusting, and messy as pets. My dogs were 100x better behaved on the trip than my nephews were, but they didn't have an extra fee. Great point about how people spread WAY more diseases than the dogs!

  7. Ughhh that just cooks my grits.

  8. I love this so much....seriously awesome letter."You oppressors" = If I could have given my computer a high five after reading this, I totally would have.

  9. Please sign my name to your letter. I couldn't have said it better myself.

    Oh, except last time I went to my vet to a health cert (which cost me $45), the airline I flew with didn't even ask for it. Vets and airlines are both extortionists.

  10. How annoying! It's one thing to charge you but another to continue to be rude about everything. Is it really necessary? I think all airlines need a lesson in customer service. Seriously.