Top 10 Reasons Why Virgin America Is the Best Airline I’ve Ever Flown

Somewhere Over America

I’m sitting here at 30,577 feet right now flying over Florida headed back to SFO in San Francisco. How do I know my altitude? It says so right on the interactive map that’s on the display in the set in front of me (powered by Google Maps) which tracks my flight all the way home.

I was going to process some photos (and I’m sure I still will) but when I fly Virgin America I’m just so tickled at what a great experience it is, I thought I’d post a quick blog post about the experience.

By way of disclosure Virgin America is flying me for free to Toronto next month as part of a program where they are offering what they call “influencers” a free round trip ticket between SFO and Toronto to try and promote this new route for them. The free flight was with no strings attached other than I disclose the free flight if I blog about Virgin.

But I loved Virgin before they ever offered me the free trip. I flew them earlier this year from Florida to SFO and was equally impressed and blogged about them then.

Anyways. On to the list of the top 10 reasons why Virgin America kicks ass over every airline I’ve ever flown.

1. Every plane seems to be new and is equipped with AC power at every seat and optional wifi that you can purchase — In coach! AC power is *HUGE*. Having AC power means that I can work on my laptop even doing battery intensive tasks like photo processing. It is so nice not to have to worry about trying to conserve power on my Mac.

2. Short check in lines and easy to use self serve kiosks. This is the second time I’ve flown Virgin now and both times there was literally no line. I’m not sure how they do this. My flight is a full flight back to SFO and obviously they fly other routes. But I’ve never had a wait with them. Even better the self service kiosk was easy to use and quickly pumped out 6 compact boarding passes for me and my family.

3. Free satellite TV in the in seat entertainment system. This is great to stay up on top of the news on stations like CNN and CNBC, but it’s also great because it includes things like the Disney Channel. This trip I’m traveling with a family of 6 and being able to put some headphones on the kids and let them watch a few Disney shows means less arguing about who gets to sit by the window.

The satellite TV system also has a mixture of very hip TV. Boing Boing TV, Current TV. Interesting programming.

4. A great selection of music. They have tons of my favorite bands to listen to. I was listening to Band of Horses earlier and now I’ve got my favorite new artist of 2010 on right now B.o.B. aka Bobby Ray. Ironically the song that’s playing right now is Airplanes. Appropriate.

5. I LOVE ordering my beer from the screen. I order it. Pay with my credit card. And it just miraculously shows up in my seat. I think I’m going to have a few more after this one.

6. Everything about this airline seems brand spanking new. The planes are super clean. They don’t have shag carpet fabric from the 70s peeling off the side of the interior like recent flights I’ve taken on Delta, Southwest and United. The lighting is cool purple. It feels more like you’re visiting a spa than taking a flight. The seats are all leather even in coach. I’m not sure if I technically have more room in my seat than other airlines, but it sure feels like it.

Virgin America Over America

7. The flight attendants are super helpful. When we flew in to Fort Lauderdale we had a tight connection to Bahamas Air. Without even asking or requesting any information on this connection, one of the flight attendants came to my seat during the flight to let me know what Terminal my flight was out of and told me the best way to get there. He was a super friendly guy. It feels like the flight attendants on Virgin America are so much more positive than other airlines. It seems like they are having a good time even though they are working.

8. The cost of the flights are very reasonable. I paid $400 for roundtrip tickets to Fort Lauderdale from SFO. That was as cheap or cheaper than every other major airline I looked at.

9. In addition to the satellite TV they have a bunch of other great programming. TED talks? On an airline? That’s pretty cool. Believe it or not they even have instructional videos on things like how to use Twitter or Facebook. Haha. I don’t need those but someone else might. They also have a seriously good line up of pay per view movies and even better great TV. Entourage, Californication, United States of Tara, True Blood (Season 2 was great).

10. Seat to seat chatting. Of course you could always chat over Yahoo Messenger or AIM or something like that on your wifi connected device. But it’s fun to chat seat to seat too.

Oh two other cool things about Virgin America. It’s the first place I’ve ever seen a video commercial for Google’s Chrome browser. They showed the commercial right after the funny video on in flight safety (much better than the tired old routine I’ve seen a million times by flight attendants in person in the past). If you haven’t switched to Google Chrome from Firefox yet you’re months behind. 😉

And secondly, these pictures that accompany this blog post? I just took them maybe an hour ago. Took them, offloaded them to my Mac with my card reader, processed them, uploaded them to Flickr and posted them to my blog post. All while up here in the sky. The first one is of the wing out my window and the second one is of my wife operating the in seat entertainment system.

My Google Maps shows that we’re over Louisiana now. Time to finish this post and get back to processing more photos. I shot the Miss Teen USA Pageant contestants last night. More on that later. Coincidently B.o.B. is now playing “I’ll Be in the Sky.”

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  1. Gary Denness says:

    Having power at every seat is something every airline should have. In fact every intercity bus and train should have it. I can’t believe that in 2010, this is still a ‘top feature’.

    But kudos to Virgin for living in the 21st century.

  2. Mike Cohen says:

    I love flying Virgin. They only started flying out of FLL recently so I flew them for the first time earlier this year. Now I never want to fly any other airline unless I have no choice. As a bonus, they’re one of the few that have non-stop flights from FLL to SFO & they’re less expensive than the alternatives.

    Their safety video is actually funny & entertaining.

  3. Shey says:

    Great summary, Thomas. I also got the free flight offer from Virgin to fly from Toronto to SFO/LA and was very impressed. Hope you enjoy our city!

  4. Paul says:

    Nice wing shot and great write up on Virgin. Sorry about the internet issue, but hope you enjoyed Nassau. Spent the last week in Orlando with the family – taking Bahamasair home tomorrow.

  5. monkeyleader says:

    WOW – I knew they were good, but ordering beer from your seat … now that’s a very nice touch .. All I really crave on my many many flights is in-seat power and wi-fi …. is that really too much to ask

    As for the poster above – Iain – sorry but your experience on Virgin, rather than Virgin America will be slightly different ..

    No wireless, probably no power, and if my experiences are anything to go by – some (not all) grumpy cabin crew ..

  6. Mike Woodhouse says:

    I think part of the reason that the plane seemed new is that it probably is! AFAIK, VA only started operating in 2007. I’m not saying they’re not smart: they clearly recognised the value of not skimping on the spec: the marginal cost was probably relatively small and the benefit accrues in the word-of-mouth (or blog) that helps to make those planes full. It’s a different matter for airlines with older aircraft: taking them out of service for retro-fitting is revenue-negative and probably has to be managed, slowly, if at all.

    Cabin crew probably are having fun: they’re working for a new company in cool planes and there’s somethign sexy about the Virgin brand.

    Dunno how they do the short/quick line thing – that’s worth a lot.

    No criticism intended, btw – I think it’s interesting to speculate how they could have got better. Next time I’m flying in the USA I’ll certainly look for a VA option. Sadly, to get there the best option would be Virgin Atlantic – still probably the best bang/buck-wise but nowhere near as shiny.

  7. Lois Ardito says:

    I fly Jet Blue to San Francisco at least 6 times yearly thanks to my daughter and I am a very satisfied customer. Last May I had the good fortune to take the journey on Virgin America’s 2nd flight out of Boston to SFO and I must admit…it was pretty amazing. Between Wi-Fi and ordering decent food on demand..can you do better than that?
    Can’t beat the experience.

  8. William Beem says:

    Excellent. Virgin is coming to Orlando soon and I’m looking forward to giving them a shot at my business. It would be a pleasant change of pace to fly on an airline that actually cares about my experience and wants my business. Should I dare to dream this could happen?

  9. The MANDATORY COMMERCIALS in the cabin are annoying. It will be curious to see if people still love Virgin when their planes are twenty years old, and the competition has nicer keyboards in the arm rests for seat-to-seat flirting. They’re cute, but I probably won’t be flying them again until they begin Chicago service.


  10. Another annoyance is that if you take a connecting flight, you are required to purchase wifi per flight segment, not for the trip. So, connecting flights cost extra compared to direct flights if you are planning to use wifi. Maybe they have fixed that, though.


  11. Thomas Hawk says:

    Daniel, the commercials were very short and they were for pretty interesting products actually (Google Chrome and Slash’s new album) right after the inflight safety video. I’d much rather hear commercials for interesting technology and interesting music than for something like diet pills or toothpaste. I personally didn’t find the two commercials at all intrusive.

    Interestingly enough though while my 7-year-old daughter was watching the Disney Channel in the air she tapped me on my arm at one point and asked me how she could skip the commercials with her remote. She’s so used to skipping commercials at home that it was foreign for her to have to watch something on live TV. Haha, if TiVo was smart they’d offer free TiVo technology to Virgin to showcase that as well. Imagine having the first DVR in the sky. Lots of good PR value there. 🙂

    A full keyboard would be pretty slick as well, but Virgin America is still *miles* ahead of any other airline that I’ve seen when it comes to onboard tech.

  12. Bryan Nelson says:

    Doing anything interesting in Toronto?

    Keep up the great blog.