Recently, America lost an airline. Well, sort of. The happy Eskimo on Alaska Airlines’ tail got hungry and decided to gobble up Virgin America, the relatively small but much beloved Bay Area-based carrier. As Alaska adopted the fleet and people of Redwood (Virgin America’s old callsign), it started repainting Virgin planes and making plans to replace aircraft interiors with a consistent Alaska product.
But at least for now, remnants of Virgin America’s unique style can still be found … if you know where to look. Try Alaska’s new A321neos, originally ordered by Virgin America. We experienced one firsthand on a transcon flight from Washington Dulles to San Francisco, and were delighted by the spacious seats, cabin comfort, and the very purple Virgin sense of style.
Read on for more photos and videos from this new-yet-nostalgic ride.
It didn’t take me long to agree to work as Press for PAX East (if you’re not sure what that is, check the link ahead). After last year’s adventure in San Antonio for PAX South, I was eager to experience the last major PAX event that I hadn’t yet been to. Besides, I’d never visited Boston before.
American, Delta, United, Frontier, and Allegiant all operate flights out of my local airport, either directly or through a regional subcontract. While I prefer to fly Delta, they were significantly more expensive than American for an early April round trip to Boston. Neither Frontier nor Allegiant fly into Boston’s Logan International, which put them out of the running. American it was! Given that I expected to come back from Boston with two checked bags plus a carryon, a back-to-front (Economy to Boston, First Class home) flight plan almost paid for itself in bag fees. At least, as long as I didn’t mind flying Boston to Sioux Falls via Charlotte and Chicago.
Unlike Delta, which runs its FSD-MSP feeder flights on mainline A320 or B717 aircraft, American contracts with Air Wisconsin to feed their Chicago-O’Hare hub with CRJ-200 flights. These aircraft are all single class 2-2 configuration. As I would find out, no booking consideration is given to First Class on other legs. Anyone wanting one of the few prefered seats on the -200 is going to have to pay for it.
JetBlue’s Mint seating is available on certain A321s.
In the premium transcontinental game Seattle doesn’t get much attention, but things are about to change with the introduction of jetBlue’s Mint product. While the premium experience might not be the first of its type in the U.S. market, it does give Seattle a true shot at giving passengers something better than a traditional domestic first class seat for those five-to-six hour transcontinental flights.
In preparation for jetBlue’s recent inaugural flight from Seattle (SEA) to Boston (BOS), we were able to give their Mint seats a proper test-sit in the name of journalistic thoroughness.
JetBlue loves to name it’s jets, too. This one is called “One Mint, Two Mint, Blue Mint, You Mint.”
The seats recline to 6’8″ — jetBlue says that makes them the longest lie-flat domestic seats in the biz. Perks of the new service include gate-to-gate Fly-Fi WiFi, an extended slate of in-flight entertainment options on a 15″ seatback screen, fancy headphones, and even fancier meals from a menu that changes monthly.
My Ride to Montreal from Toronto – MSN 400, registration C-GHKR – Photo: Peter J.M. Harrington-Cressman
Sometimes, when you are a true aviation enthusiast, you do things that some people would consider weird or unorthodox. Maybe you are wanting to fly just to experience a certain aircraft type. Or maybe it’s a Saturday evening and you want to catch up with a buddy you haven’t seen for a long time. In my case, I had a number of Aeroplan points that were going to expire. So, I decided to use those points and fly one of my closest friends and myself from Toronto to Montreal and back again — in the same evening.
For at least the last 30-40 years, Air Canada has operated almost hourly flights, known as Rapidair, on what is an extremely busy route between two of Canada’s largest cities; Toronto (YYZ) and Montreal (YUL), which is about an hour and fifteen minute flight. The route has a lot of competition: WestJet, Porter, Air Canada, and even VIA Rail. Of course, most travelers just want the least expensive flight, with the best frequency.
As I was doing this flight on points, I had basically only Air Canada to choose from. As a general rule, I don’t like WestJet – I’ve never had a good flight with them and sometimes all the busy business traveler wants is quiet, attentive service without the comedy shtick. But I digress. What makes these Air Canada Rapidair flights interesting is that there is a wide cross-section of equipment types used on these flights – everything from Dash 8s all the way to A330s. The flight that I picked for my buddy Justen and me was Air Canada flight 834 — being operated by an Airbus A330-300.