Date: 14. August 2016.
Flight time: 1 hour.
Seat: 1A, window seat on the port side.
Location: Terminal 3.
Facilities: Web check-in, self-service check-in at the airport or check-in at the counter.
Counters: There are two counters open for First Class passengers and another two for Economy Class passengers. In addition, staff are on hand for passengers needing assistance checking in at the self-service machines.
Virgin America is the only airline I know of that has lounge music blaring away in the check-in are. Just because they are so completely different from the other carriers…
Location: One floor up from the main airside area. The stairs are by the Burger King.
Type of Lounge: Virgin America lounge.
Facilities: Toilets. That’s it. There are no workstations or anything of the sort. But there are plenty of power sockets.
Catering: Soft drinks and a limited selection of snacks – things like fruit or nuts – are complimentary. In addition, full meals and alcoholic drinks are also available against payment.
Internet: Wifi is available in the lounge. The password can be obtained at the bar.
From what I understand, only members of Virgin’s frequent flyer programme have access to the lounge. For all other passengers, even when travelling in First Class, access to the lounge is only against payment. You can purchase the lounge access at the time you make your booking or later when you check-in online. The fee for the lounge access is USD30.
It is hard to say really if these are USD30 well spent. On the face of it, certainly not. Because the only thing this lounge has going for it is the excellent view of the two northern runways at LAX. On the other hand, having said that, Terminal 3 is a real stinker of a terminal. The place is old and tatty. The floors are carpeted, which make the whole place stink like a pair of really, really old socks. And the waiting area is somewhat crowded. So considering the alternative, USD30 to access the lounge is perhaps not such a bad deal after all.
Priority Boarding: The first boarding call is for First Class passengers. What always strikes me in the US is how well trained the passengers are. The call for First Class is made and literally nobody moves until those passengers have passed the gate and the gate agent invites everybody else to board. If that were Europe, everyone would be pushing their way to the front of the line before the gate agent even manages to finish the announcement.
Configuration: 2 + 2.
Seat: There are two rows of seats in First Class, which makes for eight seats in the First Class cabin. In the main cabin, Virgin America distinguishes between Main Cabin Extra and normal Economy Class. The difference between the two is the seat pitch. The seat is a recliner, so not fully lie flat, but it has a leg rest.
Pitch: 55 inches.
Width: 21 inches.
Facilities: There is a reading lamp and a power outlet for every seat.
Audio and Video: Every seat in First comes with its own 9 inch screen. There are roughly 3000 MP3s to choose from, but the selection of films is somewhat limited. There are also a few television programmes available, including the first ever episode of The Big Bang Theory. The earphones, by the way, are completely useless. Wifi is available on board.
All the window shades are down as I enter the plane. The only light in the cabin is dark blue coming out from above the overhead bins and a shade of magenta from the lights over windows. It certainly makes for a dramatic effect during the boarding process.
There are two cabin crew standing in the forward galley welcoming passengers aboard. At least I think that is what they should be doing. But the young lady obviously has an attitude issue and will not say ‘hello’ until the passengers say it first. The young man is very different in that respect: he just does not say anything at all in principle and averts his eyes when you look at him. Fortunately though, the co-pilot steps on to the plane at some point with his delivery from Starbuck’s and mood lightens. In fact the two cabin crew are so engrossed in their drinks that they forget about the passengers and just completely ignore everybody.
Welcome drink on the ground: Orange juice in a plastic cup.
Choice: There is a selection of snacks to choose from, things like popcorn or crisps.
Type of meal: Meal is a rather generous term to use here…
- Salted Popcorn.
- Diet Coke.
I know the flight time is only one hour and I had been warned about the lack of service on US domestic flights but this so much worse than I expected. I ask for a Diet Coke and all I get is one cup. Apparently, the whole can would really just be asking too much.
By the time we land the sun is already setting. We have a short taxi to the terminal, which looks modern and clean – and does not have carpets! And with that my Virgin America flight comes to an end.
The first time I flew virgin America a few years back was on a flight from Los Angeles to Chicago. Back then I thought their product was innovative and fresh. But from what I can tell, it has not aged very well. It is a thin line between really being different from the rest and just being annoyingly pretentious.