Traveling for business, usually takes me to all the major east coast ports at least 4 times a month, unfortunately I’m confined to journey on the corporate sponsored airlines of they typical variety: AA, Delta and Continental. When I actually have the option to travel for personal leisure, I’m using up my JetBlue miles, my defacto airline, as I truly enjoy things like comfortable seats, tasty snacks, wireless access I don’t have to pay for in terminals and working entertainment to distract me or to drown out the annoying long island accents spewing from the neighbors around me.
This holiday season, I scowered the discount airlines on my favorite search aggregator, Kayak.com for tickets back to the bay and came up with decent tickets direct from JFK to SFO via Virgin America airlines. Virgin has been that elusive hot girl at the party, that’s always there when you’ve shown up the girl you had planned to go home with and yet your secretly wanting to be that guy talking to her while yours takes off for a smoke or womans needs.
Since Virgin’s inception in America I had wanted to take a ride on her and now I’m getting my shot. Just like that first time, nothing is going right headed to JFK. Our car service was not coordinated in navigating the holiday traffic and it took longer to get to the terminal than many previous trips. Our driver navigated the side streets of the ghetto east New York yet despite the education and route diversion, his route still didn’t buy us any extra time.
We arrived at the international air terminal, Virgin is the only domestic airline flying out of terminal 4 and at first the idea of this was “sweet”: I’m flying with real travelers, vacationers and not the typical corporate drones I shoulder with in security, pretzel stands and overly sanitized bathrooms. Then depression starts to set in as I realize I’m one of a few not leaving the country or venturing to something more exotic like Belize, Chile, or Monaco. We’ll I guess Hunter’s Point can be exotic at certain times in the evening.
The “Terminal” desk is tucked away from the rest of international passengers as almost an after thought, but they do have iMac check-in desks, complete with a vase of flowers and Post-it note pads for you know duplicating your ticket should you forget to check your gate. After weighting our bags, they don’t have a conveyor to the baggage pick up; here Virgin makes it passengers walk their bags to another check in. This is the most budget aspect of the flight, it’s like having to bus your own tables at any fast food joint.
Security is is thick and unruly this trip, it is the holiday’s of course, we make it through late and with a rush through the cafe line for our snacks just to get on the plane next to last. We’ve been stressed enough through the entire process so the mood purple and blue glow of the interior ambiance is actually a welcome calm. Some breaky down tempo tracks circulate through the cabin, it’s like we just walked onto an iPod commercial set.
Ahhh.. sitting down to nearly new black leather seats and being surrounded by toys, I’m ready to start this trip. Virgin has gone over the top here, with a detachable remote for creating your own music playlist (mostly Virgin record label music of course), standard and premium TV options, and flip the remote over for a game controller for new and old school video games and the ability to chat with anyone else during the flight (hello hottie in the 10th row!). When the food service starts up, you have the option to order food and drinks from the console. Additionally there’s two options to be added at a later date, electronic books/magazines and wifi to be added.
This being a British airline, of course they have a snarky delivery of the safety information. Here’s the animated version here:
The flight was considerably smooth all be it very long (7 hours coast to coast!) but with naps, games, and a few chat sessions with randoms on the plane. The worst part of this experience is Virgin’s RED in-flight entertainment system which needed to be rebooted several times during my flight and failed to resolve at least half of the available TV stations. My cherry has been officially popped.