Sir Richard Branson inaugurated Virgin Atlantic service to Seattle in his inimitable style.

Sir Richard Branson inaugurated Virgin Atlantic service to Seattle in his inimitable style

On the heels of Alaska Airlines’ announcement that it will soon do away with the Virgin America brand, after having purchased the airline last year to the tune of $2.6 billion, Virgin Atlantic inaugurated daily service from London to Seattle on March 27.

Branson had publicly opposed the merger, but as a minority shareholder of Virgin America, there wasn’t much he could do. The new route will allow the Virgin brand to retain a presence in the Pacific Northwest, and perhaps help to restore a bit of Branson’s entrepreneurial dignity. The route had been announced last year, not long after news first broke about the sale of Virgin America to Alaska Airlines.

Cathay Pacific's first A350 from HKG to YVR is ready for a tug to pull it to the gate

Cathay Pacific’s first A350 from HKG to YVR is ready for a tug to pull it to the gate

Almost 35 years ago, Cathay Pacific Airways (CX) began its international expansion to North America, flying a Boeing 747-200 from Hong Kong (HKG) to Vancouver, BC (YVR). It was the first airline to fly nonstop between the two key Pacific Rim cities, and on Tuesday morning, Cathay Pacific introduced a new aircraft type on the route.

The airline’s Airbus A350-900XWB, B-LRI, touched down in the pouring rain just after sunrise, almost an hour ahead of its 8:00 AM scheduled arrival time. I was with the media group, set up on the south ramp for the A350’s expected arrival on YVR’s runway 08R. But just a few minutes before landing, the plane’s approach was changed to the north runway, 08L.

The special More to Love livery at SFO - Photo: Alaska Airlines

The special More to Love livery celebrating Virgin and Alaska becoming one – Photo: Alaska Airlines

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Alaska Airlines. I feel that they provide consistent, friendly service while having a nice product. They are like your really great friend that you always look forward to hanging out with.

Even though Alaska and I have a friendly relationship, they know I see other airlines from time-to-time. Often it is just for price or timing, but I end up back to Alaska. Mostly.

When Virgin America came to the Seattle market, things changed. Here you had a hip, friendly, cheap airline with more bells and whistles than any other domestic airline at the time. WiFi? Yup. In-seat entertainment? Of course. Fancy cabins? The fanciest. Great food? Yummy! Fun toys? Yes to all that and more. Virgin America spiced up my airline life.

Virgin Atlantic's Airbus A340 called Bubbles - Photo: Lewis Smith | FlickrCC

Virgin Atlantic’s Airbus A340 called Bubbles – Photo: Lewis Smith | FlickrCC

Growing up, many of us were excited moving up to the next grade level in school.  For whatever reason, I assumed high school would be a totally new experience. In some respects, it is. However, when you walk through the doors, you see many of the same kids you already knew. The halls are still lined with lockers that have combination locks to give a false sense of security but you really know that with some repeated jiggling they’ll open without you having to actually dial the combination.

You still spend the day in classrooms with teachers who drone on and on about this or that, and at the end of their lecture they still assign a ton of homework. In the end, its really not much of a different experience than where you were previously. Yes, the halls were bigger, our bodies were undergoing changes that just make things awkward, but at the end of the day, it wasn’t that special. For me as an AvGeek, it was a similar experience I had when finally flying on a wide-body jet for the first time.