Virgin America First Class
Chicago to San Fransisco | First Class | Flight Review | November 2016
I have a not so secret obsession with Virgin America. Ever since my first flight with the airline back in 2014, a flight from Dallas to Los Angeles in first class, I’ve been in love with the very concept of the airline. Virgin America made its first flight back in 2007 marketing itself as a “Breath of Fresh Airline”. They went out of their way to do things much differently than traditional airlines. They’re the niche hipster airline from the West Coast. They won me over.
Unfortunately, Virgin America will soon merge with Alaska Airlines which may very well mean the end of the road for the niche west coast airline. Mergers aside, as an Elevate Silver member, I do my best to fly with Virgin America as much as I can. So, when Virgin America announced 50% off all First Class fares, I made up a reason to fly to San Francisco. Many flights later and I’m still obsessed with the mood-lit cabins, fantastic in-flight amenities, and devoted employees.
|Flight #||Virgin America VX201|
|Departure City||Chicago (ORD)|
|Arrival City||San Francisco (SFO)|
|Departure Time||8:14 AM (On-Time)|
|Arrival Time||10:48 AM (Early)|
|Flight Time||4:34 Hours|
|Aircraft Details||N840VA (bytheway)|
Since it was the day before Thanksgiving, often referred to as The Busiest Travel Day of the Year, I arrived at Chicago O’Hare roughly an hour and a half before scheduled departure time. The TSA and Virgin America told me to arrive two hours beforehand, but I decided to cut it close.
Of course, there were no lines whatsoever. Compared to just one year earlier, Chicago O’Hare’s terminal 3 seemed empty. This was primarily just because of how short the security screening lines were.
I decided to check in the old fashion way and used a Virgin America kiosk of which there were six. Virgin America runs a fairly small operation at Chicago O’Hare so six kiosks and four customer service agents were more than enough. The kiosk I used to print my boarding pass was responsive and easy to use. From ticketing, it was on to the TSAPre lane.
Rather than using the priority screening lane, I used the TSAPre lane. To my surprise, the line was maybe ten people long. There weren’t any families with small children nor were there any randomly selected passengers. It took roughly five minutes to get through security.
Since I had overestimated how long the security lines would be, I had some time to kill. I made my way over to the Admiral’s Club located between concourses K and H. I had purchased a day pass the day before and it was still good so I decided to take advantage of it. I sat in the lounge for maybe thirty minutes messing around on my phone and plane spotting. From the lounge, I made my way over to gate L3 where Virgin America flight VX201 was almost ready to board.
It’s The Little Things that Make The Difference
I don’t usually do this because of the un-needed stress it makes for the gate agents but since I wanted to get a good shot of the mood-lit cabin, I asked the head gate agent if he’d let me on a wee early. I walked up to the podium, flashed my camera, and told the agents my story. We joked around for a bit and then they all agreed that they would be more than happy to welcome me onboard a few minutes early.
Three minutes later I was personally being escorted down to the aircraft by the gate agent. It was so over the top but showed just how much Virgin America’s employees love to make their passengers happy. I managed to snap some amazing shots of the cabin and chit-chat with the crew.
Prior to Takeoff
Once onboard the aircraft, I got settled in and snapped a few pictures of the cabin and my seat. I talked with the crew for a while and soon, we were ready to push back. Each first class guest was welcomed onboard by the purser and given the choice to enjoy a pre-departure beverage. I went with bottled water, something not many US airlines offer. Virgin America offers individual mini-water bottles to first class passengers anytime during the flight.
Just before the forward door closed, the captain came out from the flight deck and informed passengers of the flight time, cruising altitude, things to see en route, and cracked a few terrible jokes.
Soon Virgin America VX201 had taxied to the runway and we were ready for takeoff.
Onboard Virgin America VX201
After a fairly bumpy climb, the purser came out with hot towels and menus. Paper menus on a four and a half hour flight are unbelievably rare on domestic flights, however, on every single Virgin America flight over two hours I’ve been on, menus were offered.
Soon after, drink orders were taken. I ordered a good ole’ cup of coffee and a glass of orange juice.
Twenty to thirty minutes into the flight, the purser came back out to refill drinks and take breakfast orders. I had a hard time choosing because both sounded pretty good. I typically go with the lighter option on early morning flights, however, I just couldn’t pass up a breakfast sandwich with bacon and a poached egg.
I ordered the poblano and bacon breakfast sandwich. I didn’t know what to expect. Bacon is a hard to cook on the ground let alone at thirty thousand feet. I assumed I was going to get some dried up crunchy mess, however, to my surprise the bacon was cooked almost to perfection and was rich in flavor. I was also a little iffy on the poach egg. Poached eggs are another difficult concoction on the ground so I just assumed the egg would be a mess in the air. Once again, I had made the wrong assumption. The sandwich was perfectly sized and tasted phenomenal. I was blown away. The bread wasn’t stale nor was it soggy and the sandwich’s contents were all fantastic and full of flavor.
The side was a fruit salad on a bed of honey-whipped mascarpone cheese. I, once again, wasn’t sure what to expect but was pleasantly surprised upon the first bite. The fruit was juicy and fresh and the mascarpone cheese was sweet but not overpowering.
Breakfast was served with a warm flaky croissant and a beverage of choice. I went with orange juice and coffee. The croissant was perfection. It was warm, soft, flaky, and buttery.
Later in the flight, the purser came through the first class cabin every so often with Virgin America’s snack basket. Everything in the snack basket is from Dean and Deluca, an upscale grocer in New York City. The basket was also set upfront in the galley for easy access.
Virgin America First Class Seat
One thing that has defined Virgin America’s first class is their swanky white leather reclining seats. Ever since I first saw a picture of those all white recliners I’ve loved the aesthetics of the seat. It’s just so un-ordinary. It’s a much-welcomed change from the dull and unappealing look of most airline seating.
The seat reclines roughly 165-degrees and features a footrest. This blows the competition out of the water. No other US carrier offers a domestic first class seat quite like Virgin America’s.
The seat also features an AC power outlet, Red in-flight entertainment monitor, retractable reading light, and tons of legroom.
I didn’t have a seatmate so I was able to snap some fantastic shots of Virgin America’s First Class product.
Virgin America Red In-Flight Entertainment
Besides Wi-Fi, Virgin America offers a fantastic in-flight entertainment system known as Red. Red features on-demand movies, TV, and music and live streaming TV. Additionally, Main Cabin passengers can order drinks and snacks from the Red system.
I used the Red in-flight entertainment system to watch Now You See Me 2 and the first episode of Atlanta. I also caught up on some national news but decided to turn it off after I realized that none of the news networks actually cover news—just politics.
The Red system also features an in-flight map system which allows you to track the progress of your flight. I used the airshow feature throughout my flight. The Red system as a whole is very fast and responsive and features a wide variety of entertainment options.
I would have sat in seat 1A for another four hours, provided that another meal was served. Virgin America is still my favorite airline and this hop over to San Francisco just reinforced this. It’s a shame that the brand is teetering on falling into oblivion. Virgin America truly is a “Breath of Fresh Airline”. There just isn’t another airline in the United States that does it quite like Virgin America. I advise every AvGeek to make it a point to fly Virgin America before they merge with Alaska.
Have you ever flown Virgin America? What did you think about the onboard service?