That Letter to Virgin – possibly the best travel complaint letter ever

So have you seen That Letter To Virgin doing the email rounds? It’s a very amusing letter of complaint which was written to Sir Richard Branson following a Mumbai to London flight last month. Well, we tracked down the author of the letter, and we’re hoping the chap behind it will one day visit a lovely hotel for Mr & Mrs Smith.

Meanwhile, here’s his letter to Richard Branson. And the head of Virgin Atlantic‘s response? Sir Richard swiftly phoned him and congratulated him on his letter claiming that he and his family had very much enjoyed it – whatta guy.

Dear Mr Branson,

REF: Mumbai to Heathrow 7th December 2008

I love the Virgin brand, I really do which is why I continue to use it despite a series of unfortunate incidents over the last few years. This latest incident takes the biscuit.

Ironically, by the end of the flight I would have gladly paid over a thousand rupees for a single biscuit following the culinary journey of hell I was subjected to at the hands of your corporation.

Look at this Richard. Just look at it:


I imagine the same questions are racing through your brilliant mind as were racing through mine on that fateful day. What is this? Why have I been given it? What have I done to deserve this? And, which one is the starter, which one is the dessert?

You don’t get to a position like yours Richard with anything less than a generous sprinkling of observational power so I KNOW you will have spotted the tomato next to the two yellow shafts of sponge on the left. Yes, it’s next to the sponge shaft without the green paste. That’s got to be the clue hasn’t it. No sane person would serve a dessert with a tomato would they? Well answer me this Richard, what sort of animal would serve a dessert with peas in?


I know it looks like a bhaji but it’s in custard Richard, custard. It must be the pudding. Well you’ll be fascinated to hear that it wasn’t custard. It was a sour gel with a clear oil on top. It’s only redeeming feature was that it managed to be so alien to my palette that it took away the taste of the curry emanating from our miscellaneous central cuboid of beige matter. Perhaps the meal on the left might be the desert after all.

Anyway, this is all irrelevant at the moment. I was raised strictly but neatly by my parents and if they knew I had started dessert before the main course, a sponge shaft would be the least of my worries. So let’s peel back the tin-foil on the main dish and see what’s on offer.

I’ll try and explain how this felt. Imagine being a 12-year-old boy Richard. Now imagine it’s Christmas morning and you’re sat their with your final present to open. It’s a big one, and you know what it is. It’s that Goodmans stereo you picked out the catalogue and wrote to Santa about.


Only you open the present and it’s not in there. It’s your hamster Richard. It’s your hamster in the box and it’s not breathing. That’s how I felt when I peeled back the foil and saw this:

Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking it’s more of that Bhaji custard. I admit I thought the same too, but no. It’s mustard, Richard. MUSTARD. More mustard than any man could consume in a month. On the left we have a piece of broccoli and some peppers in a brown glue-like oil and on the right the chef had prepared some mashed potato. The potato masher had obviously broken and so it was decided the next best thing would be to pass the potatoes through the digestive tract of a bird.

Once it was regurgitated it was clearly then blended and mixed with a bit of mustard. Everybody likes a bit of mustard Richard.

By now I was actually starting to feel a little hypoglycaemic. I needed a sugar hit. Luckily there was a small cookie provided. It had caught my eye earlier due to its baffling presentation:


It appears to be in an evidence bag from the scene of a crime. A CRIME AGAINST BLOODY COOKING. Either that or some sort of back-street underground cookie, purchased off a gun-toting maniac high on his own supply of yeast. You certainly wouldn’t want to be caught carrying one of these through customs. Imagine biting into a piece of brass, Richard. That would be softer on the teeth than the specimen above.

I was exhausted. All I wanted to do was relax but obviously I had to sit with that mess in front of me for half an hour. I swear the sponge shafts moved at one point.

Once cleared, I decided to relax with a bit of your world-famous on-board entertainment. I switched it on:


I apologise for the quality of the photo, it’s just it was incredibly hard to capture Boris Johnson’s face through the flickering white lines running up and down the screen. Perhaps it would be better on another channel:

Is that Ray Liotta? A question I found myself asking over and over again throughout the gruelling half-hour I attempted to watch the film like this. After that I switched off. I’d had enough. I was the hungriest I’d been in my adult life and I had a splitting headache from squinting at a crackling screen.


My only option was to simply stare at the seat in front and wait for either food, or sleep. Neither came for an incredibly long time. But when it did it surpassed my wildest expectations:

Yes! It’s another crime-scene cookie. Only this time you dunk it in the white stuff.

Richard…. What is that white stuff? It looked like it was going to be yoghurt. It finally dawned on me what it was after staring at it. It was a mixture between the Bhaji custard and the Mustard sauce. It reminded me of my first week at university. I had overheard that you could make a drink by mixing vodka and refreshers. I lied to my new friends and told them I’d done it loads of times. When I attempted to make the drink in a big bowl it formed a cheese Richard, a cheese. That cheese looked a lot like your bhaji-mustard.


So that was that, Richard. I didn’t eat a bloody thing. My only question is: How can you live like this? I can’t imagine what dinner round your house is like, it must be like something out of a nature documentary.

As I said at the start I love your brand, I really do. It’s just a shame such a simple thing could bring it crashing to its knees and begging for sustenance.

Yours sincerely…

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There are 45 comments for this article
  1. danielle Nay at 8:01 pm

    Hi Juliet. Good hire. I emailed Oli’s letter EVERYWHERE. My friends were all crying with laughter. Nice that Richard called him but really, couldn’t he have been a little more generous?? Dx

  2. Juliet Author at 8:09 pm

    Hey Danielle! I know — the hamster reference damn near killed me. I’ll bet Sir Rich did something special — Oli said he could not have been nicer on the phone. Smith is sending him somewhere lovely to review for us soon too.

  3. Lucy at 9:30 am

    At least if anything goes wrong (which, of course, shouldn’t happen at a potential Smith hotel), at least we know we’ll get a very funny review!

  4. Kate at 3:24 pm

    That is the funniest letter of complaint I’ve ever seen.

    Many years ago, I had an extensive correspondence with TWA regarding some lost luggage, but I was nowhere near as witty.

    I’m hoping he got a flight or something in addition to just a phone call!

  5. CuriousKitty at 9:29 pm

    Love it! I’ve been chuckling to myself about this for the last hour. I’m finally ready to send the link to dozens of other people to enjoy.
    I hope Oli has fun with the Smith Reviews – are you sending Oli to the Virgin holiday destinations?

  6. Lucy at 10:20 am

    @CuriousKitty – what, and potentially inflict another grim long-haul in-flight menu on him? What a GREAT idea 😉

  7. Andy Hayes at 10:38 pm

    Absolutely hysterical. And the pictures! Heinous. I never find the opportunity to use that word often enough, but this time it suits. Oh my.

  8. jen laceda at 1:52 am

    Surely, a well-written complaint letter like this deserves much more than a phone call from Sir Rich B. After all, Mr. Branson is no dummy. This is free publicity for him. Oli actually made the complaint kind of…funny! Maybe Virgin Ltd. has a sense of humour and the joke’s on us!!

  9. Carol at 9:36 am

    Incredible!!! thank you for sharing, I couldn’t stop myself from laughing)))))))))) this is the way we should write letters of complaint;)

  10. Leith at 9:51 am

    Laugh!!, I nearly gave myself a hernia. This is the way to complain, keep it focused, keep it witty, don’t loose your temper and send it to the top. Well dont Oli, hope you have fun at Smiths

  11. Gary at 11:48 am

    > “I’m hoping he got a flight or something in addition to just a phone call!”

    Would he WANT another flight?!

    Thanks for sharing this, Juliet – nearly fell off my chair laughing. This man is WASTED in advertising!

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  13. Josh at 5:07 am

    Thats all good but what was the address for Mr Branson cause I have a complaint as well but cant find his emnail address anywhere

  14. frankie at 3:20 pm

    did the plane land safely? pack a lunch next time..

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  17. larry murdock at 12:29 pm

    who does their cooking?my wife?

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  19. Complaint Letters at 12:10 pm

    Superb! thats what i call a complaint letter.

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  21. Lucy at 12:11 pm

    Oh goodness, that is definitely a contender! Especially love the illustrations. Think Oli still has the edge though – perhaps we could persuade him to sketch out his experiences as a strip cartoon in future, though.

  22. Roque at 1:35 pm

    I’ve heard (and written) some funny tales in my life, bit this is on a different level. Oli has made me a laugh from the very bottom of my heart. Such frankness with no hint of animosity whatsoever. Why has not had 1million likes?

  23. Kate at 5:05 am

    thank you very much for that.
    after a trying evening at a far too long PTA meeting then trying to learn new software program whilst kids in bed and finally giving up after feeling completely thick as not even understanding the help menu, never mind the software! Was about to stomp off to bed when read this and have literally been crying laughing.
    I did a stint in customer relations dept whilst working at BA and this is without a doubt the best letter ever. Trumps the one i got from some bloke saying he wanted a refund for his holiday as the toilet roll was folded in such a fashion ecah day that he found it obscene and thought it was suggesting that he was homosexual. To this day, i can only imagine what kind of genius origami that must have been in a 5* hotel, no photos you see! stellar touch!

  24. Sue at 3:14 pm

    Absolutely Brilliant – we were all in stitches in the office – and yes…Richard could have been a LOT more generous! Thanks so much for brightening our day x

  25. Danielle at 4:32 am

    Pure GOLD and heartening as it seems this is an issue for all Virgin Airlines – lack of service – which i recently experienced on a V Australia flight from LAX to Melbourne – I feel better knowing that it wasn’t just my family at the mercy of Virgin.

  26. Sue at 4:06 pm

    As much as this letter made me laugh I also may me realise that regardless of which airline you fly with, the food is the same. I had the misfortune of having wensleydale butternut squash as a main meal: it stuck to my fork like a child to the leg of its mother on its first day at school. If I had a wall to paper this would have been used as the glue :-(( One can only assume the altitude changes the consistency of these meals like a bunsen burning in some weird Science experiment. So another dissatified traveller :-/

  27. Kelly er at 12:35 pm

    Geepers !!!

    All I have to say at least he is blessed with all his five senses, to complain , bitch and moan about ?

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  29. Tally Land at 1:16 am

    I have always liked and admired Sir Richard from accross the pond. If I ever use Virgin Airlines, I will bring a sack lunch. Looking forward to seeing Britain via Virgin!

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  33. Helen Melon at 12:22 pm

    Thanks for publishing in your blog as I didn’t see this the first time around. It’s creased me, truly hilarious!!

  34. Olielo at 6:21 am

    This letter is quite interesting to read. Quite funny. How to turn a complaint with funny words.

  35. Dianne Hall at 2:17 am

    I just had a shocking experience with Virgin Airlines was to fly Melbourne to Adelaide to attend my father-in-laws funeral who I was very close too. Arriving early at the airport having booked in and waiting at the terminal only to see the flight disappear off the screen. No announcements, waited quite a while and finally went to the counter thinking they had changed departure terminals only to find out they had cancelled the flight. They just don’t care – I was distraught and totally missed the funeral. Oh they did offer to get me on another flight the following day or I may it may be possible to get me on one late in the day – I was told by the female person at the counter “I should have booked a flight days before the funeral”. Did they every consider booking a funeral is not that easy also you just don’t know when a person is going to die! We did not get a cheap ticket – it was expensive. They are happy to take your money but they just don’t care. Never fly Virgin again – this is not the 1st time this has happened to me flying Virgin but this was a totally different situation and I am still extremely upset still and so is my husband we are both distraught from what has happened.

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