Virgin America Nails Connected Travel

I travel a lot. I’m not a particularly high maintenance traveller as I can sleep from wheels up to wheels down on most flights. When I fly west to east I usually fly at night; east to west I usually fly early in the morning (much to the chagrin of my partners who don’t enjoy getting up at 4:15am to go to the airport quite as much as I do.)

I’m running a marathon on Sunday in Newport, Rhode Island and decided I didn’t want to take a redeye from San Francisco to Boston three days before the marathon. As a result, I’m flying “all day” – leaving SFO at 9am and getting in to Boston around 6pm.

I often fly Virgin America from SFO or LAX to BOS or NY. It’s unambiguously the most comfortable cross country flight and I always feel a little hipper when I’m chilling out in a plane in white seats with purple mood lights. But that’s just the feel good bonus. Here’s how this morning is playing out.

I show up at Virgin and notice that they have a Chromebook kiosk. Neat – there’s a bunch of computers that are connected that anyone can use while waiting for the flight. Then I realize they are giving away free Chromebooks to use on the flight. You only get to use them during the flight, but they are free and include a free WiFi connection. Double neat. Then I sit down, open up my MacBook, and immediately see my Skype WiFi app pop up and tell me I can connect to WiFi for $0.10 / minute. Since I don’t have a Boingo subscription, and there’s not any other obvious free WiFi right here, I just click yes. Oh – and there’s a nice desk area and power.

I have a five hour flight where I expect to get a solid four hours or so of online time. A decade ago, even though everyone was talking about “wireless networking on airplanes”, it didn’t really work. Today, I’m online without much effort for as much time as I want.

Virgin makes this experience seamless. When I think about my United trips, I just cringe. No WiFi on the plane, generally crummy gate setups with no power, and a very predictable “sorry – we have a maintenance problem that we are looking into.” It’s actually kind of enjoyable to be spending the day on Virgin America flying across the country.

  • Totally agree. Posting this from a Virgin flight from SFO to ORD right now. Awesome. 

  • Matthew

    What did you think of the new Terminal 2 at SFO?

    • Beautiful. I actually enjoyed hanging out there this morning.

  • Jason Vallery

    I’m a bit jealous.   Like you I travel a lot, and like you I live in Colorado.   The trouble is that Virgin doesn’t offer the same service from Denver that United does.  I’m a slave to United (already made 1k for next year) because of the vast number of destinations they offer direct from Denver.   Hopefully one day United will catch-up or Virgin will expand their service.

  • Kudos on running the marathon. Virgin America is awesome. I enjoyed watching a movie (of my own personal selection) on a previous flight.

  • Chgriffin

    Only complaint about Virgin America is the horribly designed arm rests.  Why the unnecessary cutout for the remote?  It makes for a very uncomfortable experience.  VA, if you’re reading this, please fix the arm rests.

    • I was just noticing this as my left elbow fell asleep. Valid complaint!

  • Anonymous

    Completely agree. V.A. is awesome. Just traveled with Virgin America for the first time on a trip from NY to SFO and I actually enjoyed my time on the flight.

    Check-in was super easy and very fast. I had great leg room on the plane. The wifi allowed me to get stuff done. Then there’s that cool “vibe” which helps you forget you’re stuck on a plan for 5-6 hours.

    Virgin America is easily my favorite airline.

  • William Almonte

    Brad, im from RI.  try the chowder at the Black Pearl in Newport.  Its excellent! Bill A. TripFlock

    • Great suggestion. I’m on it!

  • Too many single points re: Virgin v United to discuss, so I’ll just offer blanket agreement: yep

    oh, and the sleeping wheels-up to wheels-down?  You drool.  We have pics.

    (and the [hopefully obv implied] best wishes on the marathon)

  • How do I get more Feld Geld?

    • Feld Gelt! Big update coming soon.

  • Don’t forget the in-seat power.. in every row! Even if your laptop can last cross country, there’s something to be said for arriving with a full battery ready for work, rather than 5% and needing to plug in everywhere you go after the flight.

    • Yeah – no kidding. It’s awesome.

  • Branson really cares about customer service.  I strongly recommend Virgin for overseas flights.

  • Alison

    Love Virgin, too–in the air.  But just had the misfortune to have to CALL to reserve/ticket for my 14 year old son.  He’s flown all over the world but can’t go unescorted to the gate for a one hour flight under their policy, and in addition to paying $75 for the privilege (requirement) to accompany your own child to the gate, you cannot book online–you have to PHONE to arrange.  OK–but TWICE, after 10 minute+ waits, I heard the telltale click and was disconnected ;>(

    Not like Branson to have lame front-facing experience.  Needs an overhaul…

  • How does the cost of a VA flight compare with the traditional airlines?  Are you paying a premium for these “perks?”  I have been flying a lot more in my new job, and I agree that air travel in general stinks.  I’m amazed at how many airports are still charging for WiFi or don’t have it at all, and planes are slow to adopt too.  I also *really* want a bullet train for the East Coast – travel between Boston and DC (and even down to Atlanta) doesn’t have to be via plane at all if we could just build better rails!

  • Mark Vogel

    Brad – let’s lobby for VA service SFO/DEN

  • All airlines need to get on board! Heard lots of nice things about VA. Looking forward to when I try it.. 🙂

  • Companies whether they be startups or big business need to focus massively on UX. There are simply so many choices these days — especially in travel. Well, with exception to mobile operators 🙂 T-Mobile might be the exception and even that is subjective or regional.

    I personally enjoy JetBlue. Not necessarily for their stellar in-flight WiFi but because customer service and leg room.

  • For SFO flying, Virgin Terminal 2 is magical. Best domestic terminal in U.S.

  • Yesuifen20

    most comfortable cross country flight and I always feel a little hipper
    when I’m chilling out in a plane in white seats with purple mood

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