Virgin America First Class. Photo from Virgin America.

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.

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”?
“Scotch please”
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.

It is a party all up in here. Photo by Brandon Farris.

IN CONCLUSION…

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.

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF & FOUNDER - SEATTLE, WA. David has written, consulted, and presented on multiple topics relating to airlines and travel since 2008. He has been quoted and written for a number of news organizations, including BBC, CNN, NBC News, Bloomberg, and others. He is passionate about sharing the complexities, the benefits, and the fun stuff of the airline business. Email me: [email protected]

http://www.airlinereporter.com
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9 Comments

Really? David, haven’t you yourself posted Louis CK’s video about everyone complaining despite how amazing things are?

You can fly across the United States now for the same price as before de-regulation. You can FLY in a matter of hours across a distance that would take you days to drive. So stop complaining.

If you’re going to post “Airline Love” guest blogs (an idea that I enjoy), please reject those that are really just a front for whining about how it sucks to fly economy.

Hey Mantini,

I really think this story supports my argument on this blog. Many people stated that they wish flying was the way it used to be. High class service, treated with respect and higher fares. That is what first class is all about.

Some people just want to get from point A to point B the cheapest way possible and there is a lot of ways to do that. Others want to still feel like kings and that is what first class is about.

I also think that Virgin America does a great job providing a high-end product in the US. Compare VX economy or first class to any other domestic airline and I am guessing that VX will win (ignore the point that the airline is not profitable).

David

Fair enough. If that’s the case, I’d prefer to see a comparison of VX First to other domestic first classes offerings, or a straight up love letter to VX First without the asinine complaints about economy class. We can get that anywhere. I look for more interesting and unique insights from this blog.

glbetrkkr

I’m inclined to agree with Mantini. The above is just a perpetual annoyance everyone seems to have these days about travel in the United States. Note how the writer doesn’t even mention his flying experience around Europe. I bet he flew an LCC at least once in Europe. If this is really an AirlineLove blog, he should exculpate on Virgin’s renowned service when compared to a legacy carrier.

Prettylion

Or maybe the Airline Reporter is giving a fact. Just because I love diamonds doesn’t mean I agree or I cannot “whine” against how diamonds were and have been harvested. I think the AR has made a valid point and agree 100%.

It annoys the hell out of me when people refer to economy as such a terrible thing. It’s not like the legroom is any worse than what you find in a car, people just like something to complain about. If you don’t like it, pay for First Class and you will get a better experience or just don’t fly at all. I’m 5’11.9999″, and while I usually fly in E+, I was in E for SYD-SFO and my few flights this year have been on US, so no E+, but I don’t find the back of the bus to be all that bad, and I am used to flying in First Class (9 of 11 UDUs came through last year, also DEN-SIN in United Business).

Throw me in the “economy isn’t so bad” bucket. Granted, my longest flight was four hours (FLL-DEN on WN, MIA-DEN on AA), however even on a 737 with 32″ seat pitch (I prefer Frontier A319s even with 31″ pitch) it was quite bearable.

When you start getting into CRJs, I understand that flying in E- is annoying. MCI-DEN was long enough for me to figure that out. However on anything above an Embraer E-Jet, inclusive, the Economy experience just isn’t that bad, at least on F9 and WN. I’ll report back on UA* when I fly them. AA was rather crappy even in a 757 but that’s AA, not Economy itself.

All the above said, last Thursday I upgraded to a seat that used to be regional First on an E90. Having a window+aisle seat was downright fun, even if I didn’t get any extra food, and even though the seat pitch was “only” 38″. It was worth the $20 that I paid on the 2-hour flight.

Do I want to fly VX First eventually? Yes. However I’m not based where they fly, so I have to put up with what other air carriers provide. Which, i the case of Frontier, isn’t that bad of a product.

I love the article. It is well written and funny. Lighten up people. Its not an attack on economy more his elation at what appears to be his first class experience. Who doesn’t love an upgrade? Ive had the same expedience and when you are sitting up front it puts the rear of the plane in a different perspective, thats what Michael has written about, more of a story than a review. Well done Michael, write more.

Artemio X. Madrigal

I have to disagree with those that are complaining. Economy Class sucks. That is why it is cheaper, people. It’s no frills and I think it’s perfectly okay to complain about it and call it whatever you want. I call it “the fiery depths of hell”, just like I call Southwest Airlines, “The airline that was crapped out by a lesser airline” I don’t know, Ryanair?

I think Mantini’s comment about CK and David is just ridiculous. And, this post makes me want to pay $200 to upgrade on Virgin America. Great Story!

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