The hubby and I spent last weekend in sunny San Diego for a friend’s wedding. I (obviously) love weddings, so it was fun to be guests at our first wedding since our own. Not only was the wedding really fun, but I had my first experience on Virgin America airlines and it. was. awesome! How did I not know about the greatness that is Virgin America before?!? So, let me give you a little rundown about why Virgin America now ranks right up there with JetBlue for me. (JetBlue = unlimited free snacks, so they will always be number one in my book!)
Google Chromebook: First of all, apparently Google has some sort of deal with Virgin America in certain cities through January 2012 where they loan you a Chromebook (a laptop that runs the Chrome web browser) during the flight free of charge. They have kiosks set-up by the gates with laptops and all you have to do is give them your flight information and a credit card (which is only charged if you don’t return the Chromebook). The Chromebook allows you to the use the Gogo in-flight wi-fi free of charge during the flight, and then when you arrive at the gate in your destination city, there is a similar kiosk set up where you just drop it off. It was super simple and definitely kept us occupied during the flight. It was available for our flight from Dallas to San Francisco, but not available to take on our leg from San Francisco to San Diego, which was no big deal since it’s a really short flight.
Boarding: Living in Dallas, American Airlines has been my go-to airline for most things. Not that I love it, mind you, but since they are based here in D-town, they seem to have the most direct flights and often cheaper fares. Plus, they’ve pretty much suckered me into their stupid rewards program so whenever I go look at flights, I think, “Well, this one is $20 cheaper… but… if I keep racking up miles on American, I can get a free flight in five years!” I know… silly. Anyway, American’s boarding process makes no sense. They have so many levels of reward customers that by the time they’ve gotten through the Platinum, Premier, Gold, Platinum Plus, Platinum Platinum, Gold Plus, Triple Diamond, or whatever all those levels are called, the plane is pretty much full and the chances that I, in boarding group 5, am going to be able to find overhead space to put my bag is pretty slim. Plus, the boarding groups don’t seem to make any sense. It’s not like they board from the back or from the window seats toward the center of the plane. It feels totally and completely random. On Virgin America, they board first class and rewards levels, then people with kids or that need extra time, and then… get this… they let “light travelers,” anyone who is NOT using the overhead bins to board. So, they reward folks for having small carry-ons that they can put by their feet. Brilliant! We were in group 2 each time and had no issues finding space for our suitcase in the overhead bin (although, someone did end up taking my suitcase off the plane thinking it was theirs, and I may have had to run through the San Francisco airport approaching everyone near our gate with a black rolling suitcase to see if it was mine. But, that’s another story for another day).
Ambiance: Mood lighting and cool boarding music? Yes, please!
In-flight Service: Not only does every seat have its own entertainment system with satellite television (nothing like watching Bravo while you’re on a plane!), but you can use that same system to order food and drinks. I was asleep when beverage service happened, but when I woke up and was craving a Coke Zero, I ordered it right from my seat and the flight attendant delivered it just a few minutes later. Amazing.
So, they don’t have free Munchies and chocolate chip cookies like JetBlue, but Virgin America is pretty fantastic! With price being equal, I would certainly choose Virgin America over American, Delta, United and US Airways. And I would even consider paying a few dollars more in order to have the Virgin America experience. I’m not sure when I’ll get to fly with them again, but I am definitely looking forward to it.
What’s on the top of your favorite airline list?