Review of Virgin America flight Las Vegas San Francisco in First

Airline Virgin America
Flight VX 251
Class First
Seat 02
Aircraft Airbus A320
Flight time 01:35
Take-off 08 Apr 15, 13:25
Arrival at 08 Apr 15, 15:00
VX   #12 out of 113 Airlines A minimum of 20 Flight-Reports is required in order to appear in the rankings. 23 reviews
indianocean
By 3263
Published on 21st June 2015
This is my first report in English and I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce the Centurion Lounge in Las Vegas. This leg was part of a trip to the west Coast of USA. The onward journey and the flight back home were flown aboard Air France First Class. And if you have any guts to read french language reports, please be my guest.

    1. Paris CDG – Los Angeles LAX, Air France La Première, HERE 2. Los Angeles LAX – Las Vegas LAS, Delta Airlines First Class, HERE 3. Las Vegas LAS – San Francisco SFO, Virgin America First Class, HERE YOU ARE 4. SFO – CDG, La Première, HERE

Before starting this report, I will share with you this brief musical sketch that will hopefully give you some ideas if unfortunately (or fortunately since we are all aviation enthusiasts) you find yourselves in this same situation. In this story, this American has been bumped two times from two flights back home to Georgia and he decided to spend the night at LAS airport instead of booking a hotel room. So rather than stay there doing nothing…



It is time to leave the “Sin City”. I’m broke and to top it all, Bugsy’s handy men are looking for me to repay the remaining debt. Luckily I have not gambled with my airline ticket. And for this I have decided to entrust my experience to Virgin America once again. Compared to the competition, their First Class cabin is super comfortable and I managed to snatch a one way for less than 200 Euros. So why not?

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While surfing the TV channels at my hotel, it is possible to check the departures and arrivals of flights from McCarran International Airport Las Vegas.

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It is too early and my flight is not yet displayed.

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The Bellagio is a beautiful hotel. The rooms are spacious and comfortable. But the downside of the big hotels on the Strip is precisely their disproportionate size: 3,933 rooms and 512 suites. Check-out time is set at 11 AM, but it's wiser to perform it well in advance to avoid the crowds at the Reception. Not too soon I find myself at Terminal 3 of the airport. The Las Vegas Boulevard Strip is not really far.



The terminal is empty just like the check-in counters.

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One can check in at the kiosks or wait for a live agent to be called.

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The lady on the left of the picture near the Bag Drop motions me to approach her. Check in is done in a breeze.

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It is not obvious on the photos but the female staff wears a necklace of flowers to celebrate the inauguration of the new routes to Honolulu and Kahului from San Francisco. Flights will be operated as code-share with Hawaiian Airlines.

The terminal might look deceivingly deserted, but the security lines are full of people. Being convinced that there is a special entrance for First and TSA Pre passengers, I advance a couple of meters until I finally find the lines that will save me lots of time.

Boarding is scheduled at gate E10, so no need to change terminals. But since Virgin America does not offer any lounges in Las Vegas, all I have to do is wait around the gate for the departure time. Do I? I don’t think so, and this is where the discovery of this trip begins.

American Express has recently opened Centurion Lounges in the US. The entrance is set at $ 50 but it is free for the classic American Express Platinum and Centurion cardholders. Three other lounges are available: one in San Francisco reported by jetsetpanda, one in Dallas-Fort Worth visited by KevinDC and one in New York-La Guardia. The fifth one in Miami has just been opened few days ago and a Century Studio is expected to open in Seattle soon during this summer.

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During the Flight Report meeting in Bangkok last March, I commented about these lounges with Tyler Birth. I knew he visited the American Express lounge in Mexico City and I was eager to hear his opinion. He told me that it was poor and it was not worth the detour. Yet, from what I have read on the website, it sounded good.

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I do not doubt the word of Tyler but I will give the lounge a try. Besides, I have plenty of time and admission is free.

On our way to concourse D where the famous Centurion lounge is located.

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The above concourse D reached via an underground train.



The Centurion lounge is located next to gate D1 on the upper level. To the right of the escalator one can appreciate an ad for the mentioned lounge.

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Without any doubt, we are in Las Vegas.

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Here we are!

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Facing some beautiful ladies, we have D for satellite and D for size.

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I present my AMEX Platinum card to a smiling agent that welcomes me. She asks for my boarding pass and informs me that there is also a Centurion lounge in SFO. She and her colleagues are also there to assist if needed.

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Before inviting me inside, she advises me that no announcements will be made. At first I was surprised to see so many people at the lounge. But eventually I managed to find a place to settle down and do my things.

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The lounge is not enclosed and offers separate areas that are tastefully decorated for working and relaxing (IMHO).



Charging outlets are available in each alcove.

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The working space.

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This is how it looks when it is empty.

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The walls are decorated with portraits of famous artists such as David Bowie and Bob Dylan.

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Or Sir Sean Connery and Michael Jackson.

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The wash rooms are clean with world-known brand products.



Contrary to traditional U.S. lounges, alcoholic drinks are complimentary and the catering is not limited to carrot sticks.

The breakfast buffet.



The self-serve hot drinks station.

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I do not have breakfast and there is enough sustenance. Fresh fruits and juices for vitamins.

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Followed by scrambled eggs and frittata with zucchini for proteins.

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And to finish with a sweet note, pancakes drowned in maple syrup for energy.

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Wifi is free and the broadband is excellent for watching videos or downloading Flight Reports.

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After 11:30am, the lunch buffet is set up.



My selection: Braised Short Ribs of beef and creamy polenta/ Orecchiete with eggplants, tomatoes and ricotta salad, dishes created by Scott Conant, renowned chef in USA. Afterwards, a ham and provolone sandwich. The pasta dishes are ordinary, the sandwich uninspiring but the beef is a real revelation. The meat is super tender and juicy and the polenta is wonderful.

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I pair this new selection with a stale Prosecco served at room temperature by an unenthusiastic bartender. Fortunately, all drinks are complimentary. It would be painful to pay and give tips for this quality of drink and service.

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Behind the glass wall is a space for children. It is hopefully closed to keep noise away.

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And in front, the Bar Lounge.



I get pulled to this fabulous dish with beef. It is only the second picture but I must admit that I have eaten at least six pieces of these. I am not be the only one who enjoys this dish as the buffet was depleted each time that it was restocked with this item.

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Then to finish off in style, a brownie to die for.

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Shortly before 12:30pm, with a tight belly, I make my way back to Concourse E where I retrace my steps.



I've finally understood the reason for the disinfectants to kill the bacteria.

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Here we are at E10. The signage is very original.

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No sight of a plane at the gate. The originating flight from New York with a stop in Las Vegas on its way to San Francisco is visibly late.

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We can wait patiently while charging the electronics or playing slot machine with clean hands.

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At 12:40pm, the bird has finally arrived.



As it is customary with all Virgin planes, each airplane is baptized. Its registration is N847VA and is named Scarlett O’Air.

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Boarding was scheduled for 12:50pm, but passengers have to disembark and the plane needs to be cleaned and restocked. Several announcements were made asking us to wait a little bit more.

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At 1:05pm, the plane is ready and passengers in group First are invited to board. One of the passengers wanted to be the first to board. He rushed to be ahead of the queue but he does not know where his boarding pass is. It was in one of his bags, but which one? An eternity later, the two following passengers have their BP on their mobile phones. Oh no, this is not on my phone. It's on yours. After scanning the first phone, the second passenger is denied. Oh, the two BPs on your phone, give it to me. Once on board, I will learn during the flight that they are two Virgin Australia’s FAs on holiday in the USA. Regardless, these people were not discrete at all.

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At the door, we are greeted by a FA in black leather jacket. He reminds me the cop from the Village People singers.

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There is no closet and I have to put my coat in the luggage compartments. The last three seats in the First cabin will be occupied by a mother with her two children and baby. This is obviously their first plane trip as the FA advises them continually of what can or cannot be done once onboard.

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The FA makes a round with pre-take off drinks.

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The pitch is very adequate for a flight of this length.

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Cleaning was done quickly.

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Some pictures of the wing and winglet.

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A JetBlue makes its way to its door.

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The pilot leaves the cockpit and makes the welcome announcement in the cabin. The door is closed at 1:35pm and the plane pushes back.

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During taxiing, cabin purser plays the safety video against a background of pop music. For those who are not familiar, a second musical interlude.



Video cannot be viewed for those in First since the screens must remain stowed during taxiing. However Ashley comes to the rescue and positions herself in the cabin mimicking the information on the video. But I prefer to watch the show outside. BA 2277 from Gatwick has arrived. Meanwhile BA 275 from LHR will land during this early evening.

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I chose the right side for take-off facing the Strip. It is now 1:45pm.



Afterwards the captain makes a sharp turn.

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Strong winds always blow in Clark County and the climb is shaky.

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A golf course at the Wynn and Encore properties.

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And the main hotels on Las Vegas Blvd.

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My main space for the following hour.

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Time has come to enjoy the flight.The headphone is free in F but it is bad quality so I prefer to use my own set. So does my neighbor.

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I deploy the screen from the armrest.

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Several films are offered but the flight is too short to appreciate one to the end.

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The flight map is sponsored by a well known search engine.

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Or live TV. Virgin offers dozens of channels but I do not usually like to surf through the ads and the soaps operas are unbearable to a fault. CNN is available but I'm not in the mood for bad news.

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Fortunately for me, one of the largest golf competitions is on. How lucky I am.

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The FA passes through the cabin asking for beverage choices. The table is in the left armrest just like the seat control buttons and massage function.

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The drinks are served in real glasses and the catering consists mainly of crisps and cookies that one chooses from a basket.

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After a very frugal meal, it is time to get comfortable.

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The pillow and fleece blanket are available in plastic packaging.

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By contrast, when the passenger in front reclines the seat completely, the comfort takes a major blow.

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Meanwhile on the ground, the warm desert relinquishes its place to colder temperatures.

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The screen is touch sensitive but a control set is provided just in case.

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Size could be better but since we are in a narrowbody, I won’t penalize for that.

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And here we have an elegant way to interrupt the program when the crew makes their announcements. We begin our descent to SFO.

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Since we are arriving from the south, we do not have a view of the Golden Gate Bridge. We fly over Silicon Valley and suburb of San Mateo.



We land at runway 28L at 2:57pm and arrive quickly at the terminal 2 located nearby at 3:00pm. The following picture shows a great corner for spotting.



One last shot of my seat before disembarking.

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Before leaving the plane at 3:04pm.

I look for my carousel. I’m amazed by the numerous code shares listed.

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Moreover, our flight was conducted among others in cooperation with China Eastern.

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The first bags come out at 3:21pm and priority tags are observed.

I had a wonderful weather during my three days in San Francisco. I took the advantage of renting a Ford Mustang convertible and visit Monterrey situated two hours south of the big city.



As a passionate golf enthusiast, I paid a visit to one of the sacred temples of this sport.

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Thank you for your attendance and a special thank to jetsetpanda for the dinner downtown and for his precious help.
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Verdict

Virgin America

7.5/10
Cabin8.0
Cabin crew6.0
Entertainment10.0
Meal/catering6.0

American Express Centurion Lounge

9.4/10
Comfort9.5
Meal/catering9.5
Entertainment9.0
Services9.5

Las Vegas - LAS

9.2/10
Efficiency9.0
Access9.0
Services10.0
Cleanliness9.0

San Francisco - SFO

9.2/10
Efficiency10.0
Access9.0
Services9.0
Cleanliness9.0

Conclusion

For a domestic flight, the comfort onboard was very adequate, excluding the transcontinental cabins on AA and UA. Catering was very weak. It was Eco service in a Premium cabin. The FA did his job and nothing more.

The Centurion Lounge was a real discovery. Its catering was right without being overwhelming especially considering what other lounges from U.S. companies offer on their turf. I look forward to repeating this experience in the future or in another airport.

Informations on the route Las Vegas (LAS) San Francisco (SFO)

8 Comments

  • Comment 139806 by
    jetsetpanda 2177 Comments

    Thank you Bernard for sharing this wonderful report introducing us to the Centurion lounge in LAS.

    Obviously AMEX blows away any other domestic U.S. lounge when it comes to food and drinks. However, I must say that if you are planning to use the shower, depending on the time of the day, there might be a long wait. That was at least my experience at the one in SFO.

    I will hopefully report on the Centurion lounge in MIA in Sept. on my way to Rio de Janeiro.

    See you then.

  • Comment 140013 by
    Sealink 62 Comments

    Excellent report. I had no idea that Las Vegas airport was so close to the centre! The AMEX lounge looks amazing.

  • Comment 140577 by
    KévinDC TEAM 3978 Comments

    Thanks for a great report Bernard! I almost missed it...shame on me :-)
    Ok, so you clearly need to write more reports in English (basically because I'm selfish and don't get much time to read reports in French anymore), haha.

    Love the Centurion lounges, they have such chic decor and the food offering just cannot compare to what you get in any other lounges in the U.S. I was in Vegas just a week before you were, but didn't have time to hit the lounge.

    VX clearly has the best Domestic First class seat in the U.S. (not counting transcon flat-beds on the Legacy US3 since those are long-haul international products). This seat is really good for a shorter flight or medium haul flight up to 4 hours or so. These are the same seats DL used to have on it's Transatlantic configured 757s prior to introducing flat-beds last year. Very comfortable.

    Thanks for sharing and looking forward to seeing those La Premiere reports in English! No pressure :-)

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