Thoughts on Virgin America

I like flying Virgin America as the company has cool and hip branding, plays music in some of its terminals like SFO and the in-flight entertainment system is awesome. One of the best things about the airline is you can order food whenever you like – and the meals I’ve tried aren’t bad. Even first class on most airlines isn’t this flexible when it comes to ordering food.

Another great feature they offer is being able to peruse through multiple albums and put together a custom playlist of music.

But it is a time-consuming process and the airline knows who I am so I am wondering why my preferences aren’t remembered when I sit down. For security reasons I could even deal with a password. Shouldn’t the system know to offer me a diet beverage and cheese platter shortly after take-off? Shouldn’t it queue my favorite music and alert me to new music videos I might like as soon as I turn the screen on?

The good news is Virgin America almost makes up for the terrible experience we all deal with at security. My flight from JFK to SFO for example was a worse than usual scenario. I had my wallet and boarding pass in-hand ready to go through the machine where you plut your hands together above your head so TSA can take a look at you naked. But for some reason I was told to go through the regular metal detecting machine which kept beeping. After two times through I was told to empty my pockets and place the contents on the belt which I did.

Then I was told I was picked for a random screening. When your last name was derived from the capital of Iran, its understandable – thankfully this time they didn’t take out the rubber gloves. After they swabbed my hands while telling me to keep an eye on my belongings I was off to try to get my stuff from the belt. I found everything except my wallet and suit jacket. A TSA member did find my wallet thankfully and then all that was left was my jacket which was missing. A nice lady from TSA did give me a grey jacket but it didnt match my pants – also I noticed it had 2 boarding passes in it.

I then found someone in front of me wearing my jacket. I told the gentleman that he had my jacket. He was quite embarassed – english wasn’t his first language so I wasn’t sure if he really understood what I was saying. He definately didn’t understand I was late for my flight becaus he fet it more important to engage in conversation with me than just remove and hand me my clothing.

The gentleman who swabbed my hands told me this was the first time he had ever seen this happen – I told him I was honored.

Anyway, I got my jacket just in time to board my flight and gorge myself on cheese platters. Ironically on my return flight the in-flight food ordering system is broken (for the moment anyway) and they don’t have any other way of charging me. Just this second they gave me the food and told me they will deal with the charging later.

While I am on the topic, here are ways in which Virgin America can improve. They should offer Sirius XM satellite radio. There is a radio option which is missing the pop music genre and the dance channel is weak. Moreover there has been a revolution in the electronic dance music space and there is no radio station devoted to this genre. There is a Calvin Harris album which is good news. Also, the Electronica/Dance area needs more pupular artists but Paul Van Dyk is a solid addition. Kraftwerk is not – even if I was a fan when they were relevant.

Speaking of music, some of the albums are from old artists like The Beach Boys and Billy Joel which I like. I was a Devo fan at some point but today I find this band to belong the oddity area, not mixed in with Elvis.

Travelling on airplanes doesn’t bother me – its really the security which is getting quite annoying. I think all airlines need to step up their service levels to compensate for the security challenges of modern-day flying or risk losing passengers. Hats off to Virdin America for having a great in-flight entertainment system, WiFI (its slow but better than the alternative) and AC power outlets.

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