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.