I’m in the middle of a west coast business trip which began in San Francisco on Sunday. Today, I needed to head down to Los Angeles and Virgin America offered the right combination of schedule and price for the flight. I wish my first flight on VX had been on a longer segment so I could really test the experience, but that wasn’t in the cards for this trip. Nonetheless, I’ve been looking forward to my flight for weeks and I have to say, I’m genuinely pleased with the experience.
I arrived at SFO’s beautiful Terminal 2 far in advance of my flight after returning my rental car. Virgin America’s ticket lobby has a very inviting aura about it. Yes, I said “aura” as I can’t think of any other word. It’s put together really well and you can see the influence of the Virgin brand’s “vibe” all around. Even the self check in machines look just a little cooler than anyone else’s. I didn’t intend to check my bag, so I had no need to interact with an agent. Self service was quick and the area was attended to by an agent who came by to ask me if I needed any help. I didn’t and soon I was on my way through the very short security line.
After lunching in the terminal, I proceeded to the gate area where I found lots of comfortable seating and several computer bars scattered throughout all of the gates that were equipped with power outlets. I took the opportunity to recharge my iPhone and people watch. The crowd was a mix of business types and people that looked like hippies. As boarding approached, the gate agent made an announcement that the flight was 100 percent full and there probably would not be enough overhead space for everyone’s carry on. The agent sought “volunteers” to check their bag. I have no idea why I fell for this, maybe it was not knowing what boarding in “Group D” really meant. Maybe I was tired. No matter what, I checked my bag at the gate. In return, I was able to board right after First Class and Main Cabin Select boarded by doing so…not that early boarding mattered without my carry on.
Boarding started and I proceeded down the jetway at the appointed time after having my ID checked by TSA (or in the case of SFO, contracted security in TSA uniform). Heading toward the boarding door, I could just sense “cool” emanating from the airplane! Seriously, the mood lighting made me smile. So did the W-like boarding music playing in the background. I was welcomed aboard by 2 flight attendants who both smiled. Shocker! I found seat 17C soon enough and shoved my carry on under the seat in front of me. As I sat down, I couldn’t help but think back to my flight out to SFO with a “customer of size” spilling over into my seat. I should not have worried. My seat mates were skinny, and I found the seat to be quite comfortable. Legroom was adequate, and then there’s Virgin’s great in flight entertainment system, Red. I knew I was going to like the flight.
The Captain made a PA about the flight while standing at the front of the cabin, way cool. He told us the usual stuff and even engaged passengers by asking who was on their first VX flight. I raised my hand along with 2 others, so the rest of the packed flight were either shy or repeat customers. It was easy to see why someone might want to fly Virgin America more than once. Shortly, we were pushing back from the gate and blasting off for Los Angeles. As soon as the electronic devices prohibited sign went off, I was connected to the internet via GoGo inflight wi-fi and watching the news on the setback video. Life = good!
Don’t know if this was specific to this Captain or a standard practice, but the seatbelt sign was turned off while we were climbing out, shortly after passing 10,000 feet (in smooth air). That alone merits an award. Not to get sidetracked, but am I the only person who thinks US airlines abuse the seatbelt sign by leaving it on when they don’t need to? Beverage service commenced and the entire cabin was promptly served by a very polite and seemingly motivated inflight cabin crew. Unfortunately, on such a short flight, I had no need to order any snacks and try out the food order option through the inflight entertainment system. I settled for a Diet Coke.
Soon enough, we were descending for LAX where we landed several minutes early and immediately taxied to the gate. I have to hand it to my fellow passengers. They were the most polite airplane disembarkers ever! You know how people in row 40 like to stand up in the aisles and get in everyone’s way as if they’re actually going to walk right off the airplane 3 seconds after blocking in at the gate? None of that here. The majority of the cabin remained seated until it was their turn to collect their things and exit the airplane. I’d never seen anything like it! My checked luggage was delivered promptly, but alas, I was missing a zipper pull. 🙁 (My only negative in a flight experience full of positives)
In summary, I really enjoyed my first Virgin America flight. All staff I interacted with was unfailingly polite and professional. The hard product on board the aircraft was remarkable, seriously. I don’t think anyone else comes close. New aircraft, great inflight entertainment, and great people. I hope Virgin America is here for the long term because I want to fly them again, preferably in First Class!