Virgin sold ticket to SA using another carrier as part of journey - does this impact on compensation

We booked an Upper Class ticket to Cape Town in South Africa.  Currently they don't fly direct so for flight from J'burg to Cape Town they sub-contract to another carrier.

When we went to book in for the first leg of our return journey we were told we were 'too early'.  Then a message appeared to say our flight had been changed and we might miss our connection  (too right - by 1.5 hours!).  The site then said to contact Virgin - no number provided and we checked our emails, spam and telephones to check we hadn't missed any notification.  We then spent 7 hours trying to get this resolved - much of which was listening to piped music.  Eventually the best they could offer were flights 5 days later.  We were not offered any option to down grade etc.  They did try to get us on BA flights but were unsuccessful.  We were told that Virgin would cover our costs and to contact Customer Services on our return.  We did this and - with considerable difficulty - they paid most of our expenses but not including car hire which we could not understand as needed this to get food and to get to airport.  After a fight we were then paid for this also.  However, we believe that we should have received compensation for the delayed flight from Cape Town to J'burg resulting in not being able to make our connection.  The Virgin  flight from J'burg did depart as scheduled but obviously we were not able to get on it.  Our belief is that as they sold us the ticket the fact that they then sub-contracted to another carrier was their choice and therefore they should be responsible for this and pay the appropriate compensation.  They are claiming that as their flight from J'burg took off as scheduled our claim should be with the sub-contracted carrier and therefore no compensation due.  Has anyone any idea if this set of circumstances affects a claim for the standard compensation? 


  • eskbanker
    eskbanker Posts: 30,786 Forumite
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    Are you saying that you hired a car and drove from Cape Town to Johannesburg, because Virgin weren't able to source an alternative flight, and that, as a result, you missed the international flight you were booked on because you didn't have enough time to get to Johannesburg?

    Was the whole CT-London journey ticketed as a through connection on one single booking reference, allowing you to check in baggage all the way through?  Whether or not there's a valid claim against Virgin will presumably depend on the exact nature of the 'sub-contracting' but if when trying to check in to the first leg, "The site then said to contact Virgin", then that would certainly imply Virgin retained overall responsibility for the booking.

    You certainly couldn't make any compensation claim directly against the local SA airline as domestic flights not to/from the UK aren't in scope for the compensation regulations.

    Are Virgin perhaps effectively asserting that the root cause of the delay (in your arrival back to the UK) was beyond their control, in that it was caused by another airline, thereby absolving them of compensation responsibility?

    It sounds like Virgin handled the flight change badly if you only became aware of it when trying to check in, rather than being notified proactively, how far in advance was that and to what extent did lack of notification ultimately cause the delay?
  • Hi Eskbanker

    No didn't drive to J'burg but needed transport to get food and finally to go to the airport.

    Yes A) we purchased a through ticket and when we finally got a flight out baggage was checked in to London
    B) Yes, Virgin are saying it is beyond their control as caused by another airline - which they had subcontracted to when selling us a through ticket ie London- Cape Town/ Cape Town-London.  Our understanding is that as we purchased the ticket in the UK they are bound by UK law and therefore are liable for any issues arising from their sub contracting of services.  C) YES they have handled it very badly!!  
  • eskbanker
    eskbanker Posts: 30,786 Forumite
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    I think you have a reasonable case that Virgin retain overall responsibility for getting you home (you had no contractual relationship with the other airline) and so if you arrived five days later than planned then they'd be on the hook for delay compensation for the full CT-London journey, so complain formally and escalate via ADR if necessary:
  • Caz3121
    Caz3121 Posts: 15,539 Forumite
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    was this a direct flight when you booked it?
    I am not sure about "sub-contracting" Many airline sell routes that contain multiple carriers - was this a SAA or SA Airline flight for the JNB-CPT leg or do you mean Virgin had sub-contracted a flight purely for their own passengers that was operating on their behalf?
  • Alan_Bowen
    Alan_Bowen Posts: 4,848 Forumite
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    I suspect this was no more than a connection as VS had no seats on a direct flight. was the airline Comair as they have collapsed into liquidation and VS are not going to be paying compensation in that case? If it wasn't and they should have informed you of a cancellation or flight time change that is a different matter although in Africa I would always double-check everything
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