Even though this was just going to be a short flight from SAN up to SFO (a route I’ve flown many times), it was one that I had been looking forward to for quite some time. Why? Well, It was to be my first flight on Virgin America! I should back up a bit and say that I’m not totally obsessed with this airline or anything, but I’ve been looking for an excuse to try them out over the years and it seemed like I could never make it work due to schedule constraints or other factors beyond my control. So naturally, that determination to try them out has grown over the years. But finally – this was it.
We arrived at SAN about an hour and a half before departure, and was surprised to see no lines queuing up at the check in desk.
We strolled right up, checked our bags, and had our boarding passes within a minute or two. I wish every trip started this easy! Oh – I would like to point out that while I thought that the upbeat electronic music playing at the check in desk was a bit cheesy, it was…kind of cool at the same time. Just another reminder of how stodgy all the other airlines are. Kudos to Virgin America for injecting some fun into the air travel experience.
San Diego, CA (SAN) – San Francisco, CA (SFO)
Friday August 1 2014
Aircraft: Airbus A319
Seat: 1A (first)
We walked over to terminal 2 west to grab some lunch, as there are far more dining options over there compared to the much smaller (and older) terminal 2 east where the Virgin America gates are. Upon arriving back at gate 25 in T2 east, we only had to wait 5 minutes before boarding for first class was called. And once again, we were greeted by techno music coming from a small pair of speakers sitting on the podium as we approached the gate.
I’ll be honest – I was pleasantly surprised as soon as we stepped onboard the aircraft. The first thing I noticed was the cool blue mood lighting emanating from the ceiling, and then the transparent purple bulkhead wall at the front of the first class cabin.
Looks great, right? Just as you saw in the pics above, the fist class seats were covered in a white leather-like material with black and gray trim plastic. The entire combination was stylish and hip, which to some might not be a big deal at all, but I loved the attention to detail here.
The first class flight attendant was super friendly and helpful. She obviously saw me taking a lot of pics, so she came over to greet us and ask if this was our first time in Virgin America first class. I told her yes, and she graciously offered to give us a tour of the seat functions which included: massage, extending foot rest, and an assortment of preset positions for sleeping or just lounging. Long story short, this seat offered far more control than most other first class seats on other domestic airlines. The massage function in my seat wasn’t operating, but my wife found it to be quite comfortable.
We pushed back from the gate right on time, but ended up sitting in the penalty box on the northern side of the airport for about 15 minutes as we were waiting for clearance to depart for SFO. The pilot didn’t give us a clear explanation as to why other than the standard “flow control” excuse. No worries though – we were siting quite comfortably up in first class.
Once airborne, the flight attendant came around with drink orders, and then followed up with a snack basket featuring a variety of snacks – most of which were brands of much higher quality than what you’d find on any other domestic airline.
The rest of this short one hour and five minute flight was spent In a state of half-sleep, and I was thinking how much of a shame it was that it wasn’t any longer. Life was pretty good up in seat 1A!
We hit runway 28L at SFO about 17 minutes behind schedule, and were docked at the gate within a matter of minutes.
All in all, I was very satisfied with my first ever Virgin America flight – and I stepped off the plane very much looking to my next one which would come two days later.
I have ridden VX First several times. It is expensive, but a couple of times a year they have sales and it brings the price down to a reasonable level, even on the transcons. I rode this ship, N524VA on December 5, 2013 from PHL to SFO. The aircraft is named ‘Dark Horse’ because when first delivered, the video system was goofy and the screens would not light.
That flight in December was notable for a front blowing west to east with an incredible headwind, leading to a flight time of almost 7 hours. Out of Philly, we could made London in the same amount of time!
I like the VX mood lighting and the copious legroom, but as you have seen, the second row is preferable. Most people have learned this, and they tend to be selected first when booking on line.
This may surprise you, but the VX meals on these transcons tend to be a bit of a letdown. The presentation has a nice trendy look, but the main course is served on a thin plastic ‘plate’, with no attempts to even resemble china or something more elegant. I suppose it’s a weight-saver, but still, at premium fares I would expect better.
Yeah, I’m always amazed at how expensive VX first class can be sometimes. I was planning on taking them to MCO last month (from SAN), and FC was over $3k. Delta first was $1k, so the choice was obvious…
And you’re right – for the premium they are charging, the food (and service) needs to be on a much higher level. I’ve never done a transcon in VX first, but I’ve heard similar complaints about the meal service. Totally uncompetitive against jetBlue Mint, Delta One, and United P.S.
Fantastic trip report! I’m getting first VX F class flight next week, and I myself just booked my first trip to San Francisco for May. How did your wife like the overall experience? And do you have any recommendations for things to do in SF? I’m doing a trip of similar length- get there one day, have the entire next day to do stuff, and then fly back the following day.
Thank you! You’ll enjoy VX first class – the seats are a bit dated, but there is tons of legroom and the white leather and blue and pink LED mood lighting is cool! 🙂 Definitely the most unique domestic first class product in the US. My wife liked it quite a bit actually – she’s not so experienced with premium cabins on many different airlines, but she said she thought it was by far the best (compared to AA, DL, UA, etc).
If you’ve only got one day in the city, I’d recommend just focusing on one area instead of trying to cram too much into one day. The Union Square area is probably a good intro to SF if you’ve never been there before. Cable cars, restaurants, beautiful views, etc – plenty to see and do. Have fun!