Virgin America A320 Main Cabin (economy class) SAN-SFO

Virgin America A320 Main Cabin (economy class) SAN-SFO

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.

terminal 2 west entrance san diego airport
Funny how it seems my last few trips out of SAN have started with a pic exactly like this one: in the dark, standing outside the entrance to T2 west.
virgin america check in san diego
It’s so nice having VX here in T2 west. Much more spacious compared to where they were in T2 east! These are the check in counters.

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.

gate 35 virgin america san diego airport
VX now uses gate 35 here at SAN most of the time.
virgin america flight information board
Close up of the flight information board.
airport selfie
Can you believe I bought a selfie stick? In my defense, I only brought it along to try some new “airport selfie” angles – but for the most part I was too ashamed to use it. 🙂
waiting at the airport
Once I had all my pre-flight shots I realized that I got to the airport way too early. I could have slept in a bit more!

San Diego, CA (SAN) – San Francisco, CA (SFO)
Saturday, August 13, 2016
Aircraft: A320-214
Duration: 1 hour 13 minutes
Registration: N637VA
Seat: 15A (economy class)

virgin america a320 side view
Virgin America A320 (N637VA) side view illustration by
SAN to SFO air route map
Our route up to SFO this morning: PEBLE6 SXC VTU RZS STOKD SERFR SERFR2
N637VA an airplane named desire
Such a good looking airplane. N637VA (“an airplane named desire”) is our steed to SFO today.
virgin america and delta at SAN
Sad to think this is a view we won’t be seeing for very much longer.

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.

san diego airport gate area
Just moments before boarding commenced.
walking down the jet bridge
Here we go – looking forward to that awesome LED mood lighting once onboard!

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!

Virgin America A320 main cabin
Virgin America A320 main cabin.
virgin america economy class
This is the view looking the other way (towards the front of the cabin).

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.

Virgin America standard economy seating
Virgin America standard (economy) seats.
virgin america main cabin seat pitch
Seat pitch is pretty standard back here in the main cabin, but the colors help to make things more pleasant.
virgin america LED mood lighting
What is it about LED mood lighting that makes the experience seem more higher class than it really is?

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.

virgin america a320 safety card
AvGeek time! Let’s have a look at the safety card…
Virgin America A320 safety card
Interior of the Virgin America A320 safety card.
virgin america entertainment system card
Virgin America has probably THE best marketing team of all US airlines. This entertainment system instructional card was really funny!
virgin america entertainment system instructions
Here’s the back of the card.

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*

virgin america a320 interior
The boarding door is now closed, and we are ready for departure.

The marine layer had burned off by the time we departed, which offered really great views of SAN and Point Loma during departure.

san diego airport virgin america
Taxiing by the end of terminal 2 west as we roll out for departure.
runway 27 SAN
Making the turn onto runway 27.
departing san diego airport
And we are off! That’s terminal 1 down there (aka “the circle of death”).
terminal 2 west san diego airport
Here’s a good look at terminal 2 west – it was pretty full when I arrived this morning, but the first bank of morning departures have already gone.
san diego marine layer
The marine layer was still a little thick that morning as we shot across Point Loma and the Midway District.

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 you can see an overview of in my review of first class on the Delta A321), 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.

Virgin America Red
Virgin America Red.
entertainment system remote control virgin america
The remote control for Red is in the center armrest.
virgin america entertainment system remote
Just flip up the armrest, and it pops right out. Very rare to see handheld remotes like this in domestic US economy class!

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.

virgin america beverage service
Complimentary beverage service on Virgin America. Water was bottled, unless you want ice, then it’s served in a cup.

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.

SAN-SFO window view
See? there really wasn’t much to see while en route.
virgin america winglet
That Virgin America US flag on this A320 rakelet sure is cool though.
virgin america winglet
It looked especially good against the deep blue sky.

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!

san francisco airport fog
Nothing but fog down there as we banked our way into the approach path for 28L.
flying into the fog SFO
Having flown into SFO so many times before, I knew we were very close at this point. But there was no airport to be seen! #eek
flying into SFO fog
Then all of a sudden, the fog started to dissipate…
SFO 28L approach
Crossing over the threshold of 28L under clear blue skies.
virgin america a320 spoilers
Whoa Nellie!
virgin america at sfo
Pulling up to the gate here at terminal 2 at SFO.

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!

Comments (2)

  1. Josh Walton

    August 19, 2016
    • SANspotter

      August 20, 2016

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