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Anyone Fly Virgin America?

This article was written by in Travel. 16 comments.


This weekend, I purchased tickets for the trip my girlfriend I will be taking to California in April. My general method of operation for purchasing airline tickets is to decide which dates will be best for traveling taking into account my schedule and my girlfriend’s schedule. She’s a teacher who doesn’t take vacations or sick days except for calendar vacation days set by the New York City Public Schools, so our vacations coincide with winter break, spring break, and over the summer.

I check SideStep to compare options from a variety of airlines and schedules, usually plus or minus one or two days depending on our available schedule. I take some mental notes and check back about once a week until I’m ready to pull the trigger.

Invariably, I end up waiting until I’m within the “six week window” in which prices are higher. I’m barely within that window now — we will depart on April 21 — and the prices haven’t risen.

We don’t choose the cheapest flight, which would usually involve flying from an inconvenient airport or at an inconvenient time. Given the choice to spend a little extra money and not find a way to the airport at 5:00 am, not take a red-eye flight, and not require battling the Los Angeles rush “hour,” we’ll spend the extra money.

This time, Virgin America presented the best non-stop schedule for the best price. Virgin America is a new airline for me. I checked some reviews online before booking and generally found promising opinions. Rather than booking through SideStep, I booked directly at Virgin America’s website to ensure I was getting the best scheduling options.

I noticed that Virgin America charges more for better seats. Their interface allowed me to choose our seats before finalizing the reservation, and the bulk head and exit row seats, which have more leg room, would cost an additional $25 each to reserve. Other airlines don’t generally allow you to reserve these seats in advance, but I don’t like the idea of being charged more for a seat that’s only slightly better than the others in the main cabin. As far as I know, no other airline shares this policy.

Virgin America sports what seems like a neat entertainment center for each traveler, a step up from jetBlue‘s television. Movies and food all cost extra on these flights, however. I’ll probably stick with reading a book or listening to my own music and bringing my own food for the flight.

Published or updated March 9, 2008. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Anca

Uh, I don’t think you can actually book flights directly on SideStep.

And for anyone who hasn’t yet used http://www.seatguru.com/ to choose your seats, you should.

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,505 (Platinum)

Anca: That’s probably why I haven’t done so. I’ve gotten into the habit of automatically going to the airline’s website directly; I don’t even remember whether it’s possible to book from SideStep itself. Yes, I check SeatGuru before selecting my seats always, and recommend it to everyone.

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avatar ondedline

Never flown Virgin America, but my husband and I flew Virgin Atlantic to London in ’06 during the terrorist scare and they took very good care of us, getting us out of the crazy lines/crowds (we were in it maybe 5 mins) and making sure we got on our flight back to the states. We’ve said we would fly them again in a minute.

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avatar Saving Freak

Virgin is just breaking into the American market. They are known for better service while still providing low cost rates. One of the ways they do this is their pricing structure on seats. I think you will be more than happy with the service you get no matter which seat you sit in.

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avatar Jason H

The pricing structure for seat selection you mention is actually more common than you might think. Unless you are a frequent flier many of the legacy carriers now charge for the privilage of seats in exit rows or at the front of coach. United, US Airways, and Northwest are a few. Air Canada charges if you want to choose your seat in advance. Southwest, for all intents and purposes, charges more for guaranteed Group A boarding with their new Business class. I could go on, but I won’t.

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avatar Ellen

I actually just flew Virgin America for the first time. It was a short roundtrip flight from San Francisco to San Diego, but it was still pretty impressive. Because it’s such a new carrier and Virgin was at less congested terminals, check-in and security took me less than 15 minutes both times.

The staff on both flights were extremely helpful and not at all stuffy like most seem to be nowadays. The entertainment system was down on my flight back to SFO, so they gave us vouchers for a free movie rental/drink/etc. I went to use mine to get a free drink during the flight and the flight attendant said to save it for a future flight and gave me the drink for free. I know this is a ploy to get me to buy another ticket eventually, but it was nice nonetheless.

Anyway, it was the most pain-free air travel I’ve experienced in a while. I definitely recommend them even if you pay a bit extra for the bigger seats (BTW – they have bigger legroom than United/Continental/etc. in their regular coach seats, as well).

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avatar John

I flew Virgin America when they just launched on a flight from SFO to JFK. Had a really good experience with them. And you can pay for food with a credit card v/s struggling with $5 change like on most other flights. The in filight entertainment sytem is decent and the seats were comfortable too.

Enjoy your trip Flexo!!

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avatar mapgirl

I had a crappy experience with their flight from IAD to SFO. But I cut them a lot of slack for it since that was probably in the first week or two of starting that route. (I think I have a review of it somewhere on my blog. I flew them at Christmastime. Or did I forget to write it?)

The problems were these:
1) Mood lighting like I’m at a nightclub. If you’ve ever heard the song by They Might Be Giants, “Man, it’s so loud in here”. That describes it. The look was swankier than bars I’ve been to in DC.

2) Overheated flight. Perhaps due to the winter weather, I was sweating like a hog on the flight and so were my fellow passengers. We collectively had to ask them to change the temperature for us.

3) The stupid computers for food ordering. Very nice and while EXCELLENT in concept, way poor in execution. On the flight in and out, the onboard computers had to be rebooted. Very bad if you ask me. The controllers for playing games weren’t that great either. I was gouging a fingernail into the ‘touch-sensitive’ screens because they weren’t responsive or picking up when I pressed a button at all.

Upsides. Yes! There were some!

1) The music selections were pretty awesome. Much better than on other airlines.

2) The service was very good. They effed up my dinner order, but were kind enough to own up to their mistake and offer me a new dinner. However, I had torn through mine in about 5 minutes so it was way too late by then. But I appreciated the gesture.

3) I think once they work the kinks out of the DC-SFO route, it will be a very good alternative to the United Airlines non-stop stranglehold on DC. I’m happy to pay $400-550 on a non-stop coast to coast flights since the $300 ones were bombed out of existence by 9/11. A 10-14 hour one-way trip kills a potential 4 day weekend to visit my family, but a single 5-7 hour flight makes it possible again!

Just my two cents.

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