Booking system delays anger Virgin Australia customers

Frustrated Virgin Australia passengers have complained of being kept on hold for up to 12 hours following the airline's switch to a new booking and reservations system across its domestic and international networks.

Scores of passengers have complained on Virgin Australia's Facebook page about being shuffled around call centres for hours on end after the airline switched to Sabre's global distribution system on Monday.

The transition to a new reservations and check-in system is a major test for both the airline and Sabre. About half of Virgin's 8000-strong workforce has undergone training in the past year for the new system, which went live on Monday, and the airline said such a major change had "gone reasonably well" so far.

But passengers, like Warwick from Sydney, said he had been kept on hold for five hours to change a flight from the Gold Coast to Sydney.

"Virgin said there had been an unavoidable change [in Warwick's original flight booking] and sent me an alternate flight, which doesn't work for me. All I'm trying to do is get back onto an earlier flight," Warwick said.

He said he was on hold for three hours at work on Monday, but had to hang up at the end of the working day.

He was on hold for a further two hours on Tuesday morning with the same four songs played repeatedly down the phone line, including Frank Sinatra's Too Marvellous for Words, and Let's Call the Whole Thing Off.

"I'm prepared to stay on hold as long as I can sit here and have my meetings and continue to work. But there are people who say they have been waiting for seven hours. I don't know what I'll do if that's the case. I'll probably explode. My head will just burst."

He managed to change his booking after five hours on hold.


Other passengers have complained on Facebook of being kept on hold for much longer, including one woman who said her mother had been on hold for 12 hours, and another who said he had been waiting for seven hours.

One customer said: "I love the new upgraded booking system. It took me 123 minutes to book a flight that takes 95 minutes..... That was using your website then having to contact your call centre."

Virgin Australia said it "sincerely apologised" for any inconvenience experienced by customers.

"We significantly increased the number of staff in our Guest Contact Centres in the lead up to the transition, however wait times in the call centres have been compounded by ... intermittent issues with the internet booking engine yesterday morning," a Virgin spokeswoman said.

The company said the problems with the internet booking engine had been resolved by Tuesday afternoon and 90% of calls coming into its call centre were being answered within 3-5 minutes on average.

A social media team was working around the clock to respond to Facebook and Twitter enquiries, the spokeswoman said.

Customers still experiencing problems were also able to contact the company via email on

On Monday, the airline's head of corporate affairs, Danielle Keighery, said on a network-wide basis the switch to Sabre's global distribution system had "gone reasonably well".

"Even this morning during peak hours the queues were not particularly long … when you consider this is the first time [the system has been operated] in a live environment," she said.

"While we have had some delays across the network, they have been minimal. We haven't had to cancel flights."

Virgin has said the new system will allow it to better link its services to alliance partners such as Etihad and Singapore Airlines, as well as making its flights more visible to travel agents around the world.

Virgin will switch its flight code from DJ to VA.