Dumbass of the Week: Virgin Blue

Today, an unknown number of Virgin Blue Velocity members (including me) received an email titled “Surprise!- You’ve Turned Gold”.

The email announced that the recipient had been granted a free upgrade to Velocity Gold, the Gold level membership of Virgin Blue’s frequent flyer programme for a period of one year. The email went on to describe perks available to Gold members when travelling including:

  • Free Lounge membership, so you can catch up on work, relax and escape the airport crowds.
  • Priority check-in.
  • Up to 32kg of checked baggage at no cost.
  • Two personalised baggage tags

No reason for the unexpected upgrade was given, apart from “you came so close to making it on your own”, suggesting that the recipient’s Velocity points for the past 12 months came close to the number required to qualify for Gold status. Except they didn’t. At least not in my case. Not even close. You normally need to reach 50,000 points to qualify.

My husband received the same email, as did many others, judging by the discussion on Twitter shortly thereafter.

Still, it was a delightful surprise. Feeling chuffed, I click on a link within the email to an explanation of Velocity Gold. ONOZ. It led to a bizarre error message stating that the whole thing had been a terrible mistake:

Friday the 13th strike
Oops! Due to an error, you may have received an email regarding a Gold upgrade by mistake. Please disregard the free upgrade communication. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.

Virgin Blue is yet to offer any explanation for the error, apart from a single tweet blaming the email screw up on Friday the 13th. The backlash on Twitter so far has been brutal. Result? Gold Standard Marketing FAIL.

What do you think? Should Virgin Blue honour their original offer? Or is their Friday 13th excuse enough? Please add your comments below.

UPDATE 1: According to @bengrubb, Virgin Blue is blaming an IT glitch for the problem.

UPDATE 2: I created a new hash tag on Twitter for the incident called #velocitygate and it seems to have taken off.

UPDATE 3: Not sure when it went up, but the Velocity Rewards site now features an apology front and center of their home page. It’s a step in the right direction:

UPDATE 4: According to an article in the Sydney Morning Herald today (17 November), the email glitch was human error, pure and simple and accompanied by tears of panic as it was posted out to over 1 million recipients by mistake. No action will be taken by Australian Competition and Consumer Commission over the glitch and if Velocity members still have an issue, they are being advised to contact the airline directly. Drama over, move along please, nothing to see here.

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