Virgin Trains East Coast (VTEC) used to hold regular feedback sessions that they branded Airtime it was the chance to meet a veriety of managers either at stations but sometimes on board the train. It was similar to the meet the manager events almost all other train operating companies arrange.
The first time I met their MD, David Horne, was at one of these events in York in 2015. It was an interesting morning as well as getting to meet David Horne there was a number of other managers there and a couple from the social media team (they've both left now). I left that morning feeling really positive, I was convinced that, despite the mistake with the loyalty scheme, I was confident VTEC would do a good job going forward. I felt this way until 2017 when their shift rota changes added unreliability to the catering offering (although changes in December helped improve the reliability it's not fully recovered) and worst of all was the changes to the web booking engine set us back 10 years in terms of features.
We've noticed that since last year VTEC seem to have been taking a head in the sand approach to criticism. Their inability to admit mistakes isn't just their passenger facing side, it's just as bad for those who work there! Rather than admit something is wrong and work with their staff to build a better service they bombard them with similar 'everything is awesome' drivel that the passengers get. Most people who work on the East Coast are committed to excellent service and do this despite rather than because of management.
What happened to Airtime?
The list of Airtime events suddenly disappeared towards the end on 2017 (I noticed it in November), if you go to the Airtime page it currently says
We're improving the format of our Airtime events to make them even better. We'll be publishing new dates shortly, so keep your eyes peeled!
It's now April 2018 and a new list of dates has yet to be published. How long does it take to change the format of a 'meet the manager' event?
It's not like the Airtime events had all finished and they've not got round to organising any more. There were originally events already planned for 2018 as you can see if you look at this archived version of the page from March 2017. The final Airtime event was held at King's Cross on the 6th October, all subsequent events were cancelled without any reason being given.
It seems odd that these events were cancelled without any notice given on social media. When I first noticed this in November I actually believed them that a new format was coming soon and a new list of dates would be forthcoming. In the end nothing happened, the airtime page still has no insight on to when the new meet the manager events will return in any form.
Another thing that has surprised me is that there's never been a Twitter meet the manager session from VTEC. These are quite popular with other TOCs and it means people can ask their question from anywhere. Their Twitter Q&A events have been rare and the ones they do have are from people in frontline roles, they're interesting and I encourage them to have more but it would be good to have a feedback session with management in this way too.
So why did they disappear? Were the questions getting too awkward? It's frustrating that all the evidence shows that they seem they no longer even want to pretend they're interested in feedback.