Virgin America A320 Main Cabin Select (exit row) PDX-SFO

Virgin America A320 Main Cabin Select (exit row) PDX-SFO

The older I get the harder it is to voluntarily choose flights that depart after 7am, but I didn’t have much of a choice for this Virgin America A320 exit row experience. The only options were this 6:40am departure, or one around mid-day which would get me home later in the evening.

The decision to take the early flight was difficult, but ultimately necessitated by the fact that there was a long list of chores I needed to get done once I got home and I needed all the time I could get. Sitting around and doing nothing all day was simply not an option!

Portland, OR (PDX) – San Francisco, CA (SFO)
Monday, August 15, 2016
Aircraft: A320-214
Duration: 1 hour 22 minutes
Registration: N845VA
Seat: 10A (Main Cabin Select/ premium economy / exit row)

virgin america a320 side view
Virgin America A320 (N845VA) side view illustration by
PDX to SFO air route
Our route from PDX to SFO this morning as VX22

One of the things I hate most about super-early flights out of new-to-me airports is the fact that it’s really hard to determine what the security lines will be like. That makes timing my arrival at the airport difficult, but I’m usually the kind of guy who would rather show up a bit early than be running late and stressing out about making the flight. My arrival at PDX this morning most certainly qualified as being way too early (I was through security in less than 5 minutes), but hey – at least I didn’t have to worry about anything. Another hour of sleep sure would have been nice though…

PDX airport departures level
It’s been a long time since I’ve started a trip from PDX. This is a good looking airport!
PDX airport ticketing counters
I thought for sure I’d be one of the first ones here this morning – but looks like there are some others with early flights as well.
virgin america check in desk PDX airport
I was, however, the first Virgin America customer to arrive though. **crickets**
PDX airport terminal
Walking through the airport trying to wake myself up.
empty airport PDX
I love walking through empty airports and reliving old travel memories. Back in August 2008 I sat here for a couple hours waiting to board a Northwest Airlines A330-200 to NRT.
flight information display PDX airport
That 5:40am UA flight to SFO sounds downright brutal. Seeing that made me feel much better about my 6:40 VX flight!
virgin america gate PDX
Perfect example of how the (in)famous green PDX carpet pretty much clashes with everything.
virgin america mural PDX airport
I do like the Virgin America murals on the walls of their dedicated gates at airports all over the country – much better than looking at plain eggshell-white walls IMHO.
PDX carpet
That carpet though. #pdxcarpet
virgin america branding
The Virgin America brand colors add a nice splash of life to the innards of PDX.
N845VA PDX airport
N845VA looking good parked at the gate just before sunrise. Sorry for the poor colors in this shot – the windows are heavily tinted and this was the best I could do.
airport selfie
It was right about this time that I was hating myself for not sleeping in an extra hour before coming to the airport. I arrived way too early this morning!
virgin america gate PDX
Just moments before boarding started. Everyone looks so full of energy, don’t they?

Now that I’ve experienced both first class and economy class on Virgin America, I was looking forward to giving their premium product (Main Cabin Select) at try. Unfortunately, although my seat on this flight down to SFO qualified as Main Cabin Select, it was just a standard exit row seat and not part of the premium economy section. Speaking of the premium economy “section” on Virgin America aircraft, it simply consists of one row (row 3) at the very front of the main cabin. That pales in comparison so other US airlines which usually dedicate the first four or five rows to premium economy.

virgin america exit row seats
Main Cabin Select exit row seats 10A, B, and C. If you didn’t already know, despite their benefits, I hate exit row seats.
virgin america exit row leg room
Lots of leg room here in the exit row, as expected.
exit row instructions
I’ve always wondered how well I would perform under pressure to open that door in an emergency. The instructions look simple, but what happens when you factor in the smoke, flames, and 120 people yelling at you to hurry the hell up?
virgin america complimentary headsets
Complimentary headsets.
virgin Red remote control
Removable remote control for the entertainment system (Red) integrated into the arm rest.
virgin america mood lighting
There’s nothing quite as nice as that Virgin America LED mood lighting.

The sun was just starting to come up as everyone was coming onboard, and overall, the mood was quiet and somber as the plane filled up. It was just after 6am after all, so there weren’t many people in a chipper and lively mood yet this morning. I sure wasn’t.

PDX airport sunrise
It was starting to look like a beautiful morning out there just before pushback.

After a verbal confirmation to the flight attendant that yes, I was willing and able to help in the event of an emergency (a perk of sitting in an exit row), we pushed back from the gate and were on our way. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt this groggy and tired on an airplane, and I’m amazed that I was able to function somewhat normally and take all the pics and video I needed for this trip report. Mental note: avoid pre-7am flights like the plague from now on!

PDX taxi to runway
The clouds were still pretty thick as we were taxiing out, and we only saw a few peeks of the sun.
departing PDX airport
Liftoff! Truth be told, pre-7am takeoffs aren’t all that exciting.
flying above the clouds
Thankfully it was bright and sunny above the clouds, which lifted my spirits quite nicely.
leaving Portland Oregon
So long Oregon. Not sure when I’ll be back, but it’ll happen eventually…
flying during sunrise
This was the view from the window as soon as we were pointed south towards SFO. No chance of decent photography now.

The rising sun just outside of my window proved to be too intense for such an early hour, and I left the window shade closed for most of the flight. That’s pretty rare for me, as I’m usually the type of guy to have my nose glued to the window the entire time looking down on the world below in awe. Not today. Most of the other window seat passengers had the same idea so the aircraft was pretty much dark all the way down to SFO this morning – except for that beautiful purple and pink glow from the LED mood lighting. It was the perfect opportunity to catch up on some much needed sleep. Sleeping in economy class seats isn’t easy, but I did the best I could.

sleeping passengers
Other passengers sleeping hard all the way to SFO.
dark cabin virgin america
It was completely dark in the cabin, though the sun was shining bright outside. Here I am trying to take a pic of the bottle of water I received from the flight attendants doing their inflight beverage service.
dark virgin america cabin
You could almost hear the gasps and when someone went rouge and pierced the darkness with an open window shade.
virgin america trip progress screen
I love an inflight entertainment system that offers good progress report data!

Our arrival into SFO was a twisty one – and I was really hoping for clear skies and a beautiful view of the city of San Francisco as we made our approach.

Descending into SFO
Descending into SFO – looks foggy down there.
overcast descent virgin america a320
I hate overcast descents like this because it’s really hard to tell how close we are to actually landing.
airplane shadow in the clouds
Can you spot our shadow?

Unfortunately, the fog was too dense this morning and it was an overall gloomy and uneventful approach and landing on 28L. And come to think of it, nearly every time I’ve flown into SFO over the past few years has been clear and sunny which made this arrival seem wrong to me. The fog is perpetually brutal in this city, but it’s odd arriving under overcast conditions!

flying through clouds
Getting downright gloomy out there now.
approaching 28L SFO
Below the cloud deck and all lined up with 28L.
arrival at SFO
Welcome to San Francisco!
virgin america gates SFO
Pulling up to the gate under dull overcast skies. Conditions like this make it difficult to feel bright and cheery this early in the morning…
deplaning virgin america a320
Not so many of the other passengers stood up while we waited to deplane. It’s too early for that kind of thing!

Despite the early hour and gloomy overcast skies, I made it safely and on-time with 1.5 hours to spare before my connecting flight down to San Diego. One more segment to go on this Virgin America farewell journey…

Comments (2)

  1. Okyoung Kim

    September 18, 2016
    • SANspotter

      September 19, 2016

Give a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.