Virgin America Review

As a bonus to my thoughts, opinion and analysis of the communications and technology sectors, today I bring you something a little bit different. After all, who wants to write about these subjects when your laptop is crammed like an Oreo between you and the reclined seat 12 inches in front of your face?

So what is a Virgin America flight like anyway? If you are like me, you hear great things about this new airline… And what’s not to like – new planes, stylish designs and a leading-edge entertainment center that’s yours – all yours.

The first thing that strikes you when you enter the cabin is the purple neon-like lights and the shiny white plastic mixed with that of the purple translucent variety enveloping the first class and rear areas of the plane.

There is a state of the art entertainment center located in the seat backs which handles your TV, radio and food ordering needs. Want a sandwich and a Coke? You simply order it and swipe your credit card (non-alcoholic beverages are free).

The system is full-featured although I did have trouble getting all the services to work. There is a chat feature you can use to speak with others on the plane but my in-seat controller was broken. Also, for the first few hours of my flight the music skipped excessively making it difficult to listen to the system at all. I also noticed the volume changed abruptly – to the loudest setting in my case. This happened twice to me. This particular feature was not compatible with the nap I tried to take but it did prove the vibrations from the human heart can rival those emanating from a jet engine.

This volume problem could be the result of my elbow inadvertently pressing against the controller which lives peacefully (most of the time) in the arm rest. While focusing on the design – I am wondering if the controller is best housed in the armrest as the hole which is placed above the controller puts great pressure on resting elbows. In addition, the plug for the headphones is on the side of the armrest and would be better positioned on the end where it doesn’t dig into your leg.

In an effort to write a complete review, I scanned the menu of options thoroughly and found there are a number of video games you can play but as they require access to the controller I couldn’t test them.

Some of the features not yet available include shopping, e-mail and reading – which I take to mean an e-book option. The seats are cramped – equivalent to American Airlines and if you happen to sit in the row in front of the exit row your seat does not recline.

Unfortunately this punishment is not shared by the occupants in the row in front of you. I learned this as I closed my eyes for a moment and suddenly realized the seat in front of me reclined and my laptop screen was in my mouth.

Offsetting these minor quibbles were flight attendants who were friendly on my way out to San Francisco. On a separate and unrelated note and I must admit the pearly-white material used in the seat backs reminds me of some sort of space-age toilet.

Strangely, the toilets were not space aged at all.

Something I haven’t seen in coach in a long while is pillows. Yes… The flight had a bunch of these onboard and I snagged one mid-way through the flight.

I cuddled mine for a while. I just can’t believe how much I missed pillows on flights. (I am sure some other airlines still have pillows on their flights as well – no need to send me a pillow-correction nastygram)

I ordered a turkey sandwich and it was of great quality and came within a few minutes after ordering. As a bonus there were a few Ghiradelli chocolates which I reluctantly consumed in the interest of writing the best review possible.

Room for improvement has to be having more legroom but with the price of jet fuel hitting new highs it is tough to imagine this happening soon. In addition, I would suggest having more radio stations – currently there are four and I got none of them to work.

Aside from the music skipping problem I would also suggest someone toy with the user interface of the entertainment system a bit to make it easier to use. For example when listening to music you sometimes get into a mode where you can’t figure out how to get easily get back to the artist/album you were listening to.

Other than that, it is really great to be on a new airplane after my usual flights on airplanes which were built when I was in diapers.

If you don’t require a large laptop you will be quite happy on Virgin America.

It will be interesting to see how Richard Branson’s new baby does over time. This particular flight had few empty seats so it seems, so far so good.

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