Review of Virgin America flight Los Angeles New York in First

Airline Virgin America
Flight VX412
Class First
Seat 1F
Aircraft Airbus A320
Flight time 05:15
Take-off 24 Jan 15, 13:45
Arrival at 24 Jan 15, 22:00
VX   #12 out of 113 Airlines A minimum of 20 Flight-Reports is required in order to appear in the rankings. 23 reviews
socalnow
By 4121
Published on 27th May 2015
Hello Flight Report community. Inspired by all the great reports on this site I will put together a series of reports to share a fantastic RTW trip I took in January 2015. For my first ever Flight Report I recently posted on my April 2015 RTW and several members were kind enough to leave feedback and I really appreciate it. I had already taken the pictures for this report so I will not be able to apply the lessons learned from that report.

I will dissect the journey as follows:
Planning, Virgin America Loft LAX, VX LAX-JFK (First)
Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse JFK and SQ JFK-FRA (Suites)
Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge FRA, Lufthansa Senator Lounge FRA, and SQ FRA-SIN (Suites)
The Private Room SIN and SQ SIN-PEK (First)
Air China Business Class Lounge PEK and CA PEK-NRT (Business)
Delta Skyclub NRT and DL NRT-LAX (Business)

Planning and Background

First of all, I don't always fly completely around the world when travel. It just so happens that my last two outings ended up this way. This trip started with a Virgin America Fare sale. I am an avid reader of the Boarding Area blog One Mile At A Time. Lucky posted a blurb about 50% off Virgin America transcon business fares. I was always intrigued by VX and the slick facade they put forward so I bought one. I have flown the Delta and United premium transcon products so I thought it would be interesting to see how VX competes.

So now the question was, where to fly from JFK? I have quite a few Chase and AMEX points maybe I could give SQ25 a go. The timings of the flight are ideal for enjoying the world class Singapore service and the A380 suites product is tough to beat. So far so good, a plan is coming together however I didn't like the idea of termination at SIN and missing the The Private Room but I also love to visit Singapore so I wanted some time on the ground there. To resolve this conundrum I added the tag in First to PEK that would allow for about 10 hours in SIN and not be considered a back track routing by SQ Krisflyer rules.

For the final legs i could have taken DL from PEK but I wanted to guild the lilly and try another airline that was new to me, Air China. I used some United miles to book PEK-NRT and then there would be any number of DL choices to get home from there. OK, enough chit chat, let's get to the flying.

The Loft (FYI to mods: The Virgin America Loft was not one of the lounge choices in the FR drop down list so I chose some generic lounge.)
It was a beautiful warm Southern California Saturday when I embarked on this journey. I arrived at the airport early as I was keen to check out the Virgin America Loft to which you gain access if flying transcon in the premium cabin. Check in was accomplished online and with no checked bags I proceeded to LAX terminal 3. Security was quick at 11:30am on a Saturday.

The Loft Entrance

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The lounge was deserted upon my arrival. There may have been one other patron. My boarding pass was inspected and I was welcomed in. The initial entry was was dark and illuminated by multi-color mood lights. It seems to be a goal of the Virgin brands to put forth a nightclub like atmosphere with their lounges and airlines.

The dark entry gave way to a bright space with lots of natural light.

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The bar

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Spa water

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No people

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This space is the former Alaska Airlines Board Room prior to the AS move to terminal 6. There are great views of the north complex runways so I just pulled a chair up to the window and enjoyed the view.

SQ12 arriving

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I enjoyed a G&T and some light snacks

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Perfect sign for a room where you may let go of some hot air

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The 320 to JFK is the one in the distance

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About 30 minutes before stated departure time I left the lounge to the make the very short walk to the gate. The gate area was very crowded with several VX flights leaving a similar times. First class was given a priority boarding so I was on board shortly.

VX412 LAX-JFK

The cabin has more of the nightclub like atmosphere with mood lighting and stark white seats. It's striking if nothing else.

The seat

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I was greeted and offered a PDB and I opted for sparkling wine. I don't know what label they serve but in a plastic glass I'm rather turned off.

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Looking forward from row 1

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Seat controls

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Boarding was completed timely and we pushed back. It's a sort taxi to the north runways.

Holding for an NZ 777-300ER

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And we're off 24L

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Service started as soon as we passed 10,000'. There was one flight attendant for the 4 of us in first.

Service cart

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A menu was presented but I only photographed the cover, LOL!

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I opted for a VX signature cocktail. I think it was something with gin and cucumber..a gimlet of sorts perhaps. It was quite nice.

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The menu listed a starter, choice of main, and a dessert. I assumed they would be coursed but he starter/salad and main arrived on the same tray. It's braised beef short rib with horseradish sauce.

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The starter/salad was nice prosciutto with some melon

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Cake for dessert

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The flight attendant was very attentive during service and refilled wine and water regularly. There were only 4 of us in First so I would imagine with 8 she would not have been as available. There was a period she disappeared to assist with the economy service but it was after my tray was cleared.

One interesting perk of VX first is that you can enjoy and of the economy BOB items. When the flight attendant returned from coach I requested the cheese plate.

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A digestif of single malt scotch.

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I failed to get any pictures of the IFE system. It was of the older VOD variety with an approximately 9 screen the folded out from the armrest. It did the job for watching a movie after dinner. I set the empty seat next to me on the map channel and was able to enjoy a movie on my screen.

We arrived more or less on time to JFK terminal 4 and I was off to a Sheraton to rest up for my big two day SQ adventure that would start the next day.

















See more

Verdict

Virgin America

7.1/10
Cabin7.5
Cabin crew7.5
Entertainment7.0
Meal/catering6.5

Independent ReLAX Lounge

7.0/10
Comfort7.0
Meal/catering7.0
Entertainment7.0
Services7.0

Los Angeles - LAX

7.2/10
Efficiency7.5
Access6.0
Services8.0
Cleanliness7.5

New York - JFK

5.0/10
Efficiency5.0
Access5.0
Services5.0
Cleanliness5.0

Conclusion

I was happy to have tried Virgin America and I am of the impression that their marketing is far more style than substance. Their premium transcon product is a distant third of the carriers I have sampled. The lounge was pleasant and ample for a US domestic carrier. The on board service was attentive. The catering and hard product are both sub par when compared the the multi-course meals and flat beds offered by United and Delta, my two points of reference. So kudos to the Virgin America marketing department because they have convinced the US flying public that they provide a hip, quality, and sophisticated product when in reality it is of lower quality than its competitors on this route. Thank you for reading and stay tuned for the next leg of the journey!

Informations on the route Los Angeles (LAX) New York (JFK)

18 Comments

  • Comment 137630 by
    SKYTEAMCHC 4921 Comments

    Thanks for sharing with us this great report. Virgin America is a very good airline and has something special. I like the club atmosphere when you board. The seat, although not full flat looks very comfortable and the meal is nice and well presented. A nice FA and you spend a good flight . Looking forward to your reports.

  • Comment 137632 by
    jetsetpanda 2177 Comments

    Thanks for this report. The LOFT is a far cry from what it used to be. The food at the lounge used to be more generous and varied.

    I agree that VX is more hype and marketing than anything else. I think Jetblue's Mint cabin is much better than VX from other reports that I have read. Another factor to consider is the frequent flyer program and the miles that one can earn. If you earn with VX the choices to spend your hard earned miles are rather limited.

  • Comment 137698 by
    indianocean 5025 Comments

    What a nice RTW itinerary.

    Just like you, I expected a better catering.
    I like flying VX, First class seats are comfortable.
    However, UA and AA now have a much better transcon product especially First and Business Class.

    I'm looking forward to read your reports aboard SQ Suites.

    Thank you for sharing.

  • Comment 137724 by
    NGO85 1579 Comments

    Thanks for sharing this start of yet another RTW!

    The Lounge doesn't look very remarkable for a hub with very eclectic furniture. No hot food options, only the typical US Lounge offerings?

    in a plastic glass I'm rather turned off.
    - Common in domestic F, no?

    I don't care for the nightclub feel, but they could have at least put some fish in that bulkhead aquarium. Also, the placement of the IFE controls in the armrest is poor design.

    I assumed they would be coursed
    - For a flight of this length, I would also expect a coursed service. There is no need to rush the service. The main does not inspire me, but I found the starter to look very appetizing and fresh (beats a commercial salad). Also, the ramekin of nuts is very 'conservative' in size, it's so small relative to the glass.

    It's also hard for them to compete against the Legacies since they are sending an A320 on this route (and not the AA transcon A320), I personally wouldn't want to be on a narrow-body for a flight this long.

    • Comment 317230 by
      socalnow AUTHOR 504 Comments

      Thank you for reading and commenting NGO85.

      Common in domestic F, no?
      -Yes, for sure. I, and several of the airlines, view the premium transcon market as a level above domestic first. I recall United PS using plastic on the ground but Delta Business Elite uses glass on the ground.

      they could have at least put some fish in that bulkhead aquarium
      -Now that you mention it that does look like a dentist office or seafood restaurant aquarium. Too funny.

  • Comment 137731 by
    KévinDC TEAM 3978 Comments

    Wow, another RTW! Nice to see a report on VX's Transcon F. It's kind of sad how fast their product went from being one of the best, if not the best in the transcon market a few years ago to being the worst of the products on this route. Heck, even JetBlue has installed a flat-bed premium product. As all the carriers have gone to International Business class standards on transcons over the past few years, VX has fallen behind. I can't imagine VX makes much money in their Premium cabin considering it's only 8 seats and I've never heard of any plans to upgrade the product or enlarge the cabin. Maybe we'll see something new when they get some A321s. Thanks for sharing!

    • Comment 317233 by
      NGO85 1579 Comments

      All other domestic service has seen a race to the bottom
      - I think that is the best description I've heard yet, it really is an arm's race for last place. Someone should tell them there is no 1st pick in the draft on offer...

  • Comment 137734 by
    Chibcha 406 Comments

    Although I've never flown on any Virgin airline I am fond of them, and I admire Mr. Branson a lot. I certainly want to try one of his airlines sometime. But what you've shown doesn't leave much to wish for. It does seem under par, the servings more on par with a regional flight than what I would guess is VX's flagship flight.

    The plastic glass of wine made me think they served you ginger ale, ha ha!

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Comment 138300 by
    Carfield 1 Comments

    Thanks for a wonderful report!

    Just to let you know that the meal was supposed to serve course by course. Tray is not even supposed to be used.
    However inconsistency is the number one issue with Virgin America and F/As either got little training, being forgetful or being lazy. Given how attentive your F/A was. S/he possibly just forgot that LAX-JFK is a premium transcontinental route.

    Thanks for sharing and I was surprised to see such a light load in Virgin America first class, especially on the LAX to JFK route!

    Carfield

    • Comment 318168 by
      socalnow AUTHOR 504 Comments

      Thank you for the comments Carfield.

      Just to let you know that the meal was supposed to serve course by course. Tray is not even supposed to be used.
      -How very interesting! I thought something was off about this. I could see presenting it all at once for a night flight but this was a daytime flight where time for sleep would be less critical.

  • Comment 138747 by
    pititom 8734 Comments

    This is an extremely promising routing !! And there is never enough chit-chat for me, when it's about flying strategies ;)

    Cabin, crokery and seats are all nice but indeed, something solid is missing about it. Was the entertainment system good and exhaustive ? Because it's a long flight...

    It looks like a pleasant flight but maybe the worst product on this line, as both American and Jetblue are offering much better (together with DL and UA).

    Anyway, the best is to come :)

    Thanks for this report !

    • Comment 318170 by
      socalnow AUTHOR 504 Comments

      Hello Pititom and thank you for the comments.

      Was the entertainment system good and exhaustive ?
      -Adequate selection and nice moving map. The screen is quite small. It is not a current generation system for sure. With no seatmate it was ice to have two screens at my disposal,

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