01: Introduction: Saying goodbye to Virgin America
02: Virgin America A320 Main Cabin (economy class) SAN-SFO
03: Virgin America A320 Main Cabin (economy class) SFO-PDX
04: Best Western Ocean View Resort, Seaside, Oregon
05: Aloft Portland Airport
06: Virgin America A320 Main Cabin Select (premium economy) PDX-SFO
07: Virgin America A320 Main Cabin Select (premium economy) SFO-SAN
I’ve already experienced two fantastic flights on Virgin America back in 2014, so I pretty much already knew what to expect before this trip began. Virgin America is hip, cool, and dare I say it: perhaps the best airline in the US in terms of overall experience. Of course I know that’s a very subjective statement, but I really dig the casual and stylish approach to flying that VX does so well. So more than anything, my main hope for this trip was that I would be able to experience the full Virgin America culture before it becomes diluted and absorbed into Alaska Airlines. Will these flights be just like the awesome Virgin America experience I had two years ago? Let’s find out!
This first segment up to SFO this morning was scheduled to depart SAN at 7:00am, but I still had to get up pretty early in order to get down to the airport to have enough time to take some “pre trip” pics and video for this trip report.
Sometimes I fantasize about my days of flying when I wasn’t writing trip reports, and I could sleep in a little and stroll up to the airport at the last possible moment to make a flight. Well, that isn’t entirely true because I always arrived a little early just to enjoy the ambiance of a busy airport. Sounds sick, doesn’t it? Hey – I love travel (especially air travel), and there’s nothing quite like hanging out at a busy airport and watching other people traveling to and from destinations all over the globe.
San Diego, CA (SAN) – San Francisco, CA (SFO)
Saturday, August 13, 2016
Duration: 1 hour 13 minutes
Seat: 15A (economy class)
The sun was just starting to rise as the boarding processed commenced, and right away I discovered the first thing that was eerily similar to Alaska Airlines that I didn’t recall from my previous Virgin America flights: pre boarding nonsense! Just as AS does it, the gate agent called four other groups of passengers before the Priority group (mine) was called. Yeah, I purchased priority boarding for this flight in hopes of being one of the first ones on so I could get good pics of the empty cabin, but it didn’t work out so well this morning. First they called for passengers needing extra assistance. Then those traveling with small children. Then first class. Then those with the Virgin America Visa Card. Priority passengers were after that. Oh well.
Stepping onboard a Virgin America airplane is an experience like nothing else. It’s dark. Moody. And beautiful! All window shades are shut, hip music is playing, and the purple and pink LED mood lighting is the only light source in the entire cabin. It makes every other airline in the US seem old, crusty, corporate, and stodgy. Thank you Virgin America for making flying a stylish and fun experience!
The seats are quite stylish as well. Black leather goes very well with the red, purple, and pink accents throughout the cabin – it’s so nice to see economy airline seats that aren’t blue! I will admit that they weren’t all that comfortable though. These are pretty much standard run-of-the-mill economy seats that are just a tick above in comfort over slimline seats that are starting to become more prominent on other airlines here in the US.
I experienced something during the boarding process that’s only happened to me one other time in my traveling life so far: the person sitting next to me didn’t move over to the empty aisle seat once the boarding door was closed, leaving that seat open and the two of us sitting uncomfortably together alone in our row. WTF? I was tempted to say something (“I think we’d be more comfortable with an empty seat between us, don’t you think?”). But I didn’t want to offend her by implying that I didn’t want to sit next to her. This was a short flight anyway, so I just let it go.
I was surprised to see that the safety video was the same one that I saw back in 2014. However – it’s fast, fun, and quite hypnotic! It’s very rare that I’ll watch a safety video in it’s entirety during pushback and taxi, but this Virgin America production is very well done and quite entertaining. So well done, as a matter of fact, that I still had that song stuck in my head two days after I returned from this trip. Fun safety videos like this are so much better than watching dry “welcome aboard” messages from airline CEO’s with no personality. *cough*Delta*cough*
The marine layer had burned off by the time we departed, which offered really great views of SAN and Point Loma during departure.
Once in flight, I had a look around Red, which is Virgin America’s in-flight entertainment system. This was nearly as good as the latest version of Delta Studio which I had the chance to play with on their A321 last month, and I did like the fact that it’s possible to order food and drinks through this system. I didn’t try it, but…I was very tempted to give it a shot just for the sake of this trip report. Hopefully this is a feature we’ll be seeing on more airlines here in the US in the near future.
I should also note that drinks are complimentary in the main cabin here on VX, so it’s not necessary to purchase one through Red.
Flying from SAN to SFO is pretty routine for me (I’ve done it 18 times so far), so there wasn’t anything special about this flight once we were in the air and well on our way.
The clouds and fog were thick as we approach SFO from the south, which was surprising considering that the captain had been saying all along that the weather at SFO was “clear”. The closer we got, the thicker the fog seemed to be. But then, just as we crossed the threshold of 28L, the fog thinned out and it was nothing but blue skies and sunshine. Welcome to San Francisco!
So that wraps up the first segment of this trip report. Did I get the full and undiluted Virgin America experience that I was hoping for? You bet! It seems the more mature and stodgy Alaska Airlines culture has yet to seep into this great little airline, and that made me look forward to my next three VX flights on this itinerary with increased enthusiasm. Virgin America rocks!