A year ago (2016) I felt positive about the future of Virgin Trains East Coast (VTEC). Apart from the loyalty scheme things seemed to be going in the right direction. In August last year Kristal Ireland was given the role of head of eCommerce and retail and all the articles I could find about her showed that she was very highly regarded in the industry. It seemed like VTEC had made the right decision.
This time last year British Airways announced the end of complimentary catering in shorthaul economy class and the introduction of buy on board M&S catering from January 2017. At the time I was no happy with the news and thought I'd cut out domestic flights completely in 2017. In 2016 most of my domestic travel was by train and I didn't see this changing. I would occasionally fly if I needed to travel at short notice and booking a reward fare with Avios worked out cheaper than a last minute train ticket.
As usual posts in the blog section reflect the views of the contributor and may not reflect the views of others involved in Save East Coast Rewards.
The current rule with advance tickets is that you must start and finish your journey at the ticketed destination and the specified trains. You should not leave the train at an earlier station or join at a later station. It is one of the drawbacks of advance tickets, they offer no flexibility but in return you get cheaper fares.
Most of you know you can get WiFi for free if you book direct on virgintrainseastcoast.com but if you have to book tickets through a different site for work or someone else bought your tickets it's possible you don't have a WiFi code. Add to that the fact that the new VTEC website is incomplete and is missing features such as bike reservations and catering vouchers there's a number of reasons why you might want to book elsewhere.
I first started regularly travelling GNER in 1999. They were the first operator on the East Coast Mainline to take over from British Rail and they were the company that gave me my love of rail travel and the appreciation of the East Coast Mainline offering a much more special service than you'd get elsewhere.
Even though I travelled exclusively in standard class at the time GNER still seemed special. It was the people who made (and still make) the service special.
The new Virgin Trains East Coast (VTEC) booking engine is now live. We pleaded with them not to release it until it was ready and key features were implemented but they decided to press ahead with it anyway. The previous WebTIS booking engine had its origins with GNER and is nearly 10 years old. Regular travellers along the east coast have come to rely on the functionality it provided.
Virgin Trains East Coast (VTEC) plan to replace the booking engine used on their website on 1st August 2017 replacing WebTIS which was launched back in 2007.
On 29th November 2007 the operator of the East Coast Mainline at the time, GNER, launched a brand new website and booking engine which was a significant improvement over other booking engines at the time which were all just based on thetrainline. The website didn't last long in GNER colours, National Express East Coast took over the franchise on 9th December so the site lasted under two weeks under the GNER brand.
When we had our first meeting with Virgin Trains East Coast (VTEC) marketing back in 2015 they explained that they wanted to make more use of technology to 'surprise and delight' there most frequent customers as well as offer occasional surprises to others. This has taken a few forms:
One of the new features of the beta Virgin Trains East Coast booking engine is the ability to purchase London Travelcard when your destination is London. If you're not familiar with public transport in London you might think this is a good idea and an useful convenience, but in reality you're being ripped off and also make things slower for others if using the station at peak times.