[This post is not a paid endorsement]
I just flew from Los Angeles to New York on Virgin America, and I have to say it was one of the highlights of my trip. Here’s some of the stuff I liked:
- Seats: Leather, comfy, good legroom in coach class.
- Decor: Lounge-y and muted, with ensconced magenta and blue lighting. Soothing electronica plays as you embark and disembark. I like that the restrooms have their own soundtrack from the main cabin.
- Flight Attendants and Crew: Seemed really friendly and competent. The captain on our flight from JFK was walking around the waiting area to see how everyone was doing and explain why we were going to be about 20 minutes late taking off.
In-seat Power Ports: Totally awesome! Why every airline doesn’t do this, I don’t know. There are two powerplugs per three seats, so some negotiation is required if every passenger wants to power something. But that’s a minor quibble to how awesome this is. On my six hour flight out, I could have watched three DVDs or did some high-power consumption video editing and burning. That’s worth at least $40 more per flight for me.
- Movies, TV, Music: This is Virgin after all, so you would expect them to have this part down. Virgin has really ramped up the amount of fun you can have with their Linux-powered "Red" in-flight entertainment system. You can watch regular TV, cable TV and movies ($8 per flick). They have a couple dozen radio stations, 3,000 songs by artist and genre, and music videos.
Communications: As soon as my co-workers Barry, Rafi and I got on the plane, we started playing with the in-flight text chat. I started a chat room and we made it a contest to see how many other passengers we could get into our room, with one point for coach class, two points for first class. Interestingly, none of us were successful at getting first class folks to participate. We did start a small group discussion about what were the best restaurants in LA. Reportedly, email and SMS texting is coming soon.
- Games: They have a nice selection of Linux open-sourced games, including DOOM and surprisingly a game called "Mad Bomber." Some of the games you can play with other passengers on your flight, which is really cool.
- Food and Beverage: Like most low-cost airlines, you no longer can count on a free meal on your flight, or even a free beverage. On Virgin, you get the usual drink cart that passes by every once in awhile. But you can also order drinks and food from the touchscreen, which is a lot cooler than it sounds. Having a steak sandwich and tomato juice appear whenever you want it is just so smart.
Reportedly, wifi is coming soon to Virgin America, which will make it the airline of choice for me and I’m sure countless other geeks and professionals. But even at current standards of service, I’m choosing Virgin over other domestic airlines whenever possible.