Virgin West Coast’s ‘return’ ticket turned into a single issue

Guardian

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11.11.2019 07:01

My wife and I recently travelled by Virgin Trains (West Coast) from Glasgow to London after buying return tickets via Trainline. Our outward journey should have taken less than five hours but turned into a nightmare 10. The apologetic conductor repeatedly announced that, as the journey had been delayed by more than two hours, there would be a full refund on return tickets bought at the point of purchase. Rather than getting into Euston at 6.05pm it was after 11pm. We had to get across London (including two trips on the DLR) and arrived at our accommodation at midnight.

I received confirmation that my online refund application had been received and that I would hear back within 30 days but probably within 15. On the 14th day an email stated £98 had been refunded to my PayPal account – the cost of the outward journey.

Customer services explained that although we had bought return tickets they were classed as single tickets of a different type and we could only get a refund on the delayed single journey. The devil is in the detail. Even though you click a button confirming a return journey (it is the same on Virgin Trains and Trainline websites) you pay for two single journeys and if the two tickets are not “compatible” they are not classed as a “return”.

I think this is outrageous.

GMacD, Westerton, Glasgow

Your train was one of many delayed by a failed freight train in the Carluke area. Under Virgin’s passenger charter you were entitled to a full refund of your single or return ticket. People can save by buying a discounted one-way ticket and, at the same time, buy another to come back again. Some people confuse this with a return ticket, which appears to be what you did.

Virgin insists that you were travelling with two single tickets, not returns, which means you were entitled to 100% compensation of the outward single journey. You paid £122.50 (£49 for an advance single plus £73.50 for an off-peak single) which saved you £24.50. Ironically, had you bought an off-peak return at £147 you would have been entitled to the full refund.

Virgin Trains says: “We are sorry for the delay to GMacD’s journey which was the result of a failed freight train. As he was travelling on a single ticket, he was fully reimbursed for his trip to London.”

While this does not make up for a frustrating journey, it seems you have received the correct level of compensation for the kind of tickets you bought. Given your terrible journey, Virgin could have chosen to pay you the rest but has chosen not to. We also think it is worth alerting readers to the fact that the Virgin West Coast transfers to new operator – First Trenitalia – on 8 December. We are reassured any complaints relating to travel before the cut-off date will continue to be handled by Virgin.

We welcome letters but cannot answer individually. Email us at [email protected] or write to Consumer Champions, Money, the Guardian, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU. Please include a daytime phone number. Submission and publication of all letters is subject to our terms and conditions

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