Virgin America First Class. Photo from Virgin America.
Meet Michael. He is a 59 year old real estate developer, builder, investor and consultant that lives in Santa Cruz, CA. I have never met Michael, but he recently emailed me sharing his recent experience with Virgin America. I loved his thoughts so much, I wanted to share them. Here is his Virgin America #AirlineLove experience in his own words:
So folks, here I am flying home on Virgin America from DC to San Francisco after three weeks of flying to Europe (around Europe) and back to the US in economy cattle coach. When booking this Virgin flight, I was given the opportunity to upgrade to First Class for two hundred dollars.
Lets see…. should I do this? It would mean no bag charge ($50.) No $80 for 2 inches of desperate extra leg room for the insulting “seat plus” option. No thirty dollars worth of marginal food and drink extras to avoid stumbling off the plane hypoglycemic. So maybe the net cost to me is $40 bucks. Should I do this? Hell yes!
So here I am sitting in First Class writing this email because frankly I’ve been abused for so long I can’t quite handle the experience. I’ve flown 1st class in the past but I think coach has gotten so much worst over the years that I’m in shock at the difference. Like many things these days, the flying public has forced the airlines to compete only on price leaving no room for a business model based on quality of experience. So why would anyone pay more for the experience of boarding first, deplaning first and sitting in front of the plane? I’m here to tell you.
TYPICAL COACH FLIGHT:
Subtitle: Trapped animal
Wait to shuffle onto the aircraft, stake out your crappy narrow no legroom seat, squirm, suffer and long for the hours to somehow go by more quickly, strategizing constantly about when to get up, use the bathroom, stretch your legs, etc. Consider drugs as an escape to the hours of hell. This is obviously a very abbreviated description of coach economy hell. No need to dwell further on the negative, we’ve all been there. Now mind you, Virgin offers an above average coach experience, nonetheless, it be coach.
Two Virgin America Airbus A320s at LAX. Photo by Ken Koller.
OKAY, VIRGIN AMERICA FIRST CLASS:
Board first, plenty of room in the overhead, First Class bathroom ratio 1 to 8. Nothing you didn’t already know so far but it’s a cumulative experience. (notice how I’ve elevated the words “First Class” to proper noun status” like “Gold Bar” or “Jennifer Lopez”). By the way, I skipped lunch today because I figured at a minimum I’d receive the airplane food free and be attended to like a human. Like I said before, I’ve been abused for so long, I didn’t know what to expect. To say the least, I underestimated the experience. Oh, and the security line is shorter as well.
I sit in my seat, it’s so wide Chris Christie times two would be comfortable. I stick my legs out straight as far as I can and I can’t touch the seat in from of me with my toes, in fact, I almost can’t reach the back of the seat magazine pouch with my hand, not that I need it cause I’ve got so much cleverly designed storage and room around me. I don’t have to share an armrest with the seat next to me, we each have our own. My seat mate is so far away, he looks like he’s across the aisle. The tray table is designed in such a way that I can get up from my seat with a meal, computer, (or whatever) still on it. Get this, I can step to the aisle from my window seat without disturbing my seat mate, no “excuse me” necessary and of course, the seats metamorphose into beds. I have not one, but three windows. No one is rushing to clamp on noise canceling headphones, it’s not that noisy up here. I don’t feel I can discover or take advantage of all the amenities offered in the time it takes to fly coast to coast.
ON THE FOOD:
“Would you like something to drink”?
She preemptively brings me two. Served within minutes of takeoff.
1st course is fresh tender Calamari, hearts of palm and tomato salad perfectly prepared in vinaigrette, (the tomatoes are ripe summer tomatoes bursting with flavor, I’m not kidding)! 2nd course is tender moist chicken in a fig sauce with vegetables, fresh figs, and actual fresh baked olive bread. “Can I have a 2nd piece of bread”? “Of course.” The veggies are firm, flavorful, perfectly cooked, not the usual microlimp we expect to work around while gagging down whatever we can marginally accept on the plastic-tray-excuse for a plate. Dessert is three wonderful little pastries in a row: Macadamia nut thingy, little chocolate mousse cup and little lemon bar, (fantastic)! I don’t usually even like lemon bars. Need a snack? Just ask for the fabulous snack tray. If you want your meal tray removed NOW, just ask.
Did I mention my drink is served in a real glass? I have a cloth linen napkin. I have actual metal stainless flatware which I thought was banned after 9/11, (The airlines are afraid you might slit your own throat after a coach meal). The salt and pepper shaker is a little mini airplane. I feel like a child flying for the first time. Everything is served “a la restaurant”, I don’t have to unwrap anything or feel as though I’ve been served a meal in a hospital bed. All the food is the correct temperature. The stewardess is not rushed or bitchy. Forget the service, just on the food alone, on a scale of one to ten, I would rate the meal a solid eight, perhaps nine.
It is a party all up in here. Photo by Brandon Farris.
Without me noticing, the flight is half over. I don’t feel any particular urgency for the flight to end, I really don’t care (a first)! Somehow the sound of crying children has been expunged. The PA system is the right volume and you can understand clearly. I’m so etherized I believe the turbulence feels milder up here. I can actually accomplish work in this environment.
Oh look, now the flight IS over, we’ve landed, who knew — and forty minutes early. No wonder we deplane first, the coach passengers won’t even be here for forty minutes. I might just pass on my privilege of deplaning first and linger a little longer, maybe they’ll bring a sedan chair and carry me to baggage claim, anything seems possible.
Like I said before, I’ve been abused for way too long.