Live Blogging @ 37,000 Feet: I ♥ Virgin America
Every once in a while, air travel doesn’t suck. You don’t get frisked at security or have your “personal items” scoured in front of a crowd of strangers. You score the bulkhead seat and can stretch your legs out half-an-inch more. You’re feeling downright pampered, right? Well, I’m here to tell you that it can get even better. Over the last year, I’ve been coming to the conclusion that when you’re flying Virgin America (which I am right now, as in right this minute, as in in-flight wireless!), air travel really doesn’t suck. Here’s why:
Overhead compartments that roll-on bags actually fit into There’s no cramming or slamming. The bags just fit. Such a simple concept, and yet so rare.
Free headphones Okay, technically they aren’t free. They’re $2 a pop. And like all crappy airline headphones, they make you long for a Bose setup. But if you’re flying out of SFO, you’re in a pinch, and you don’t have change for a $20, a really nice desk agent (that’s right, nice desk agents — another reason why Virgin America rocks) might just let you have one for free.
The Black and Blue Steak Sandwich The menu promises this: “Basil and cheese focaccia loaded with blackened flat iron steak, gorgonzola cheese spread, balsamic glazed onions, arugula, sliced Roma tomatoes and fresh red and yellow roasted tomatoes. Served with a Toblerone chocolate for dessert.” Sounds like something you’d see on the menu at, say, Witchcraft. Turns out, Virgin America doesn’t need Tom Colicchio to turn out an excellent ‘wich.
Extra leg room I interviewed David Cush, Virgin America’s president and CEO, in Outside magazine last year, and he let me in on the secret to Virgin’s leg-room advantage: they hired the company that designs seats for Porsche. “We have these new Recaro seats that are much thinner than standard industry seats,” Cush told me. “They’re thinner but they’re still more comfortable. So even with the same amount of space, you get more legroom.” An airline that considers the comfort of the customer. As if.
The ordering, obviously This is a well-known perk, but in case you haven’t heard, the food service is like table service at a restaurant. You’re hungry, you place an order on the seat-back screen in front of you, and things like hummus and veggies, Pringles, bloody Marys, and steak sandwiches appear. Magical.
The entertainment system actually works Other airlines that I won’t mention (but that my colleague Adam Baer has been hilariously forthcoming about) have entertainment systems (by which I mean live TV, on-demand movies and TV, music) that are spotty at best, and often useless. Virgin America’s is totally reliable – it helps that everything’s brand new, for sure.
Jasmine tea So civilized.
Wireless I paid $9.95 for the five-and-a-half hours worth of in-flight wireless that’s allowing me to write this article right now — with a connection as fast as any I’ve used on terra firma recently. LAX wanted almost as much for the 45 minutes of wireless I would’ve used if I’d shelled out before my flight. No thank you, LAX.
Even if you’re in the back row, your seat reclines This is a major pet peeve. I’m unlucky enough to be seated virtually in the bathroom, and my seat doesn’t go back?! Cruel and unusual customer service. But Virgin’s Porsche-like seats make it possible for everyone to get comfy, regardless of their luck in the seat-selection process.
True Blood and other HBO fabulousness The selection of on-demand TV programming is better than what I have at home.
Power outlets WHY WHY WHY are these so hard to come by? Airports are intent on denying us access to power outlets – hiding them on the far side of the column in the far corner of the boarding area, or behind a row of seats you’d have to lie down on the floor to reach. Most airlines don’t have outlets on their flights because retro-fitting is either prohibitively expensive or just not possible. But Virgin’s got ‘em. And not just in First Class. Coach passengers are created equal in this respect.
[Image courtesy of Virgin America]
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