The first class lounges on the Virgin Trains East Coast (VTEC) network have been a bit of a mixed bag. The lounge at Kings Cross is relatively new having opened in 2012 in time for the Olympics alongside the new departures concourse. This lounge also received a small refurbishment over the weekend of the start of the new franchise in 2015 so it was looking at its best for passengers and the press during the Virgin Trains East Coast launch events.
Today the results of the annual Which? survey are revealed and Virgin Trains East Coast (also including the last few months of East Coast) rank in 6th place. They rank below the two East Coast open access operators (Grand Central and Hull Trains), Merseyrail, Virgin Trains (west coast) and c2c.
If you've ever had to contact East Coast by post since 2011 you will have noticed their customer relations address is based in Plymouth which seems odd for a company based in York that doesn't go anywhere near Devon. This was due to East Coast outsourcing the contact centre to reduce costs. Previously the contact centre was based in Newcastle and had been since at least the GNER days.
We've started a competition we called #BetterRewards the first competition was to win £20 worth of Foodbar vouchers (great if you like Hop on Board) and the current competition is to win a first class return anywhere on the East Coast Mainline (a link to the most recent competition can always be found here).
Both Virgin Trains East Coast and West Coast are running a promotion called 'Love the North'. Given the name of the promotion you might be surprised to see that key cities such as Newcastle and Durham are missing. The reason for this is because the promotion is to show that flood affected areas such as Yorkshire and Northhumberland are still open for business and welcoming visitors. The promotion has been run in association with Visit England.
I know similar has been said by the other contributors before but the big problem with Nectar is there's no way for customers to grow attached to it, the benefits are so small that people just hand over their card because it's better than nothing but they don't feel a sense of loyalty to any of the brands that partner with Nectar. People have a Nectar card because they shop at Sainsbury's (or BP, etc) they don't shop at these places because of Nectar. This was shown particularly well last April when Sainsbury's halved the earning on the Nectar scheme and it hardly had any impact on sales.
When Virgin Trains East Coast announced they were scrapping East Coast Rewards and replacing it with Nectar they also mentioned that earning Flying Club miles was another option. They have made the ability to earn Flying Club miles more prominent as they realised no one was particularly happy with Nectar and although Flying Club wouldn't suit everybody it provides more intresting redemption offers (we really need to write an article about making the most of Flying Club).
There's quite a few variances within our team, never mind within our larger group of supporters. We all agree the East Coast Rewards was far superior to Nectar and that it was a big mistake signing a contract with Nectar without consulting their passengers. Even if rewards couldn't continue in its current form they could have modified the scheme to fit their needs.
A lot of people get frustrated when they pay a few hundred pounds for their rail ticket only to find out they haven't got a seat. Understanably so (particularly as on a plane everyone has to be allocated a seat) but there are reasons for this. It can be even more annoying when you realise someone who paid just £5 for their ticket in a sale is guaranteed a seat.
UPDATE: it has been confirmed that Virgin Trains East Coast will happily credit any missing points caused by people booking on the wrong site. As usual we'll be monitoring Twitter to see if anyone has any issues.
We've already written about the triple points Nectar promotion, however for those who've heard of the promotion direct through Nectar (either by direct email, online or through their app) there's a chance that people will earn zero points rather than triple points.