Flying Virgin America

This past weekend I took my first flight on Virgin America, from Philadelphia to L.A. It was my first time on any Virgin airline, in fact. I’d heard good things about it, and was excited to give it a try. Philadelphia being a US Airways hub, I’m always always flying them and am getting a bit tired of it – though often I have no choice. Plus, I always like to test out products in case my clients ask me about them.

On the way out, I flew in the main cabin – basically, coach class. The seats were comfortable and my seat mates quite pleasant, though I can’t really attribute the latter to the airline, as much as I’d like to (unlike KLM, there’s no “pick your flying” companions programs here). I also love that there the outlets between the bottom of each seat, which allow me to charge electronic devices. Sadly, I only discovered this on the return flight. While I can’t say I was “wowed” by my departing flight, it was an overall good experience and if flying the Philadelphia to LAX or San Francisco route again, I’d most likely choose them. I should mention that the price was quite competitive as well. I think my round trip Main Cabin ticket cost around $350.

On the way back, I decided to treat myself to a Main Cabin Select upgrade. For around $130 (one way), I was able to upgrade to the next level of service. This means I got 6 more inches of leg room – I chose the bulkhead seat – which is a big selling feature. It may not sound like a lot, but given the compactness of most airline seating these days, it is. I also got free food, which I could order from the touch screen tv at my seat. You just put your order in and they bring it right to your seat! It’s tough to get a free mini bag of peanuts on most domestic flights these days, so this was quite a welcomed feature. Another advantage was that I got to board right after First Class, something that always 1.) makes someone feel a bit special and 2.) basically ensures that you’ll have plenty of room in the overhead bin for your bag. Main Cabin Select also allows your to check my first bag for free, though I wasn’t checking any luggage on this trip.

If I had wanted to upgrade to First Class from Main Cabin Select, it would have been an additional $130-$150 each way (this may vary depending on your flight). In the days of $1000 first class seats on many flights, this really isn’t terrible. Had it been a red eye, I may have been tempted. I was lucky with my choice though, as I had the whole row to myself and could spread out plenty.

Overall, I give Virgin America my stamp of approval, as far as domestic airlines go. While I guess you could argue that it’s not technically an American airline, since the company is part of the Virgin group, it operates domestic flights and in comparison to many other airlines that do so, it’s a step up. Currently, the airline flies between select U.S. departures cities and Los Angeles or San Francisco. For those on the west coast, it does operate flights between San Francisco an several major airports in Mexico. (Obviously it’s not limited to those on the West coast, but it wouldn’t make sense for most of us flying from the East Coast). Whether or not they will expand service, only time will tell. For now though, if you have to head to LAX or SFO, I highly suggest looking into Virgin America.


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