Review of Virgin America flight Denver San Francisco in Economy

Airline Virgin America
Flight 861
Class Economy
Seat --
Aircraft Airbus A320
Flight time 04:25
Take-off 21 May 16, 07:00
Arrival at 21 May 16, 10:25
VX 26 reviews
jhess95
By 847
Published on 6th December 2016
Welcome!
This is my first ever trip report posted so please forgive me if I unintentionally omit crucial details. A video will be added to my youtube channel in the coming week as well. In any case please proceed and enjoy, I think you'll like it! My youtube channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCwi9nbIneG2d-hsdnlWYg7w/videos?view=0&sort=dd&shelf_id=0


Purpose
I am based in Denver, CO. When Virgin America announced DEN as their next destination last year the airline offered cut rate entry fares for the occasion so naturally my mother decided to surprise me the morning after with an email booking confirmation. Needless to say I was stoked! I have been an avid follower of VX since Richard Branson created the airline back in 2005 and I even signed the DOT petition affectionately dubbed "Let VA Fly" (if any aviation fans here remember that). So, after all these years it was finally my time. Plus i've never been to SFO so why not take a weekend hiatus. But enough drivel and on with the pics.

The ship assigned for the mission (I apologize if some of my photos look like they were taken with a potato)
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Departure Gate
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Since this was my first flight with VX I wanted to acquire a pair of their signature colored headphones (which were under lock and key next to the boarding door). I inquired the gate agent if it were possible for me to have one. She stated yes but at a cost of $3 in which had to be paid in cash. I replied that I only had a credit card (I did actually have cash on hand but wanted to see what her response would be). To my surprise she caved in and granted me two pairs of headphones for free! Boarding shortly commenced in typical commercial aviation fashion, First class, then elites, then extra space seating etc until finally our zone was called. Great excitement and anticipation was building up. It was happening! I'm boarding a VX flight! So much win! Upon stepping inside the aircraft we we're greeted by a late 20 something FA in addition to some Beyonce or Rihanna song softly playing over the intercom. The cabin was dark with its plush black seat upholstery and closed window shades but brought out the mood lighting quite nicely which created a night club lounge like atmosphere. This certainly was not a United flight! Also, I think its pretty obvious who VX's target market is.
I also want to note that VX planes (unlike other airlines) have a distinctive light "ping" when the intercom comes on.
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Seat pitch (comfy seats but it was a shall we say "cosy" pitch). While the pitch was a little tight it was none the less a comfortable seat. Each seat is also equipped with inflight power ports for charging portable devices.
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Wing shot
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Flight Map
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Concerning passenger load it was probably one of the lightest ones i've flown on in years. Plenty of open seats. Could not have been more than 60%. Push back began roughly around 7:05 am and the CFM engines began to spoll to life from their slumber along with the trademark "barking dog" hydrolics of the narrow body airbus. VX's funky safety video below which was quite entertaining to watch. DEN was relatively quiet at this hour so a brisk taxi over to runway 25 for a west bound departure and off we went. As typical for Denver take-offs with its 16,000ft runways it was a tame and underwhelming roll.
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In-Flight

As many of you probably know, VX is famous for its ample amenities and innovative in-flight entertainment and ordering system to which I was eager to try. I spent the first 30 mins of flight time exploring RED (the name of VX's entertainment OS). As much as I enjoyed navigating through RED I found the content to be lacking. First off unlike JetBlue, Delta or AA there is no satellite music stream meaning you're stuck listening to the selected playlists that were uploaded most of which contained artists i've never heard of so choosing a song was a shot in the dark. Secondly, the T.V channels were also limited to primarily sports and news (good thing I enjoy CNN) so no channels like History, Discovery or Nickelodeon. In addition, I find it disappointing that VX doesn't offer any sort of complimentary snack in economy, just a free non-alcoholic beverage (albeit unlimited). If United and Southwest are willing to distribute munchies then VX ought to be at the forefront. On the bright side since being forced to adjust my music taste to the pre-determined onboard playlist I did manage to discover some pretty cool upbeat music (one of which is an artist named Ben Paterson) which I highly recommend if you enjoy modern jazz.
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My free headset
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The RED ordering system. I must say I initially was skeptical about in-seat ordering as my assumption was that it would encourage the cabin crew to become elusive and disengaged with the passengers. In reality it meant that the aisles were free more often and I could order a refreshment whenever I wanted (not when the FA's decided). It would be nice if other airlines followed suit.
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About an hour into the journey the flight become quite choppy with turbulence which continued on for about 15 to 20 minutes. It was the kind that pushes a plane side to side and it got pretty aggressive at times. However, the crew maintained decorum and went about the cabin service uninterrupted. Regarding the cabin crew, aside from the pilots virtually all of the FA's were young late 20s through early 30's "hipsterish" millennials. While proficient in their duties and polite the demeanor was somewhat robotic and frosty.



The IFE remote
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Emphasis on the empty flight
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Beginning the initial descent. One of my favorite inflight shots. Sadly, with the Alaska Airlines buyout this view may not be around much longer.
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And the eagle has landed. Welcome to SFO! Virgin America occupies terminal 2 with its own wing. Modern, small but still a good selection of eats and shops. The distance to the pickup curb was short as well. Plus, I love the smart and efficient gate agent desks they have.
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First class (you know, for rich people)
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Now, I believe I would be doing this report a grave injustice if I didn't include some pics from my weekend excursion. Commence Vampire Weekend song "Holidays"

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View from the hotel room
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Baked treats at Boudins



Union Square city life
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Lunch at House of Nanking
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Cioppino
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I think you all know the name of this bridge!. Fun fact, when the bridge was being constructed the initial color scheme was going to be striped black and yellow. Thank God the engineers changed their mind.
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Verdict

Virgin America

7.0/10
Cabin9.0
Cabin crew6.5
Entertainment/wifi7.5
Meal/catering5.0

Denver - DEN

6.9/10
Efficiency7.0
Access6.5
Services7.5
Cleanliness6.5

San Francisco - SFO

7.1/10
Efficiency7.0
Access6.5
Services7.5
Cleanliness7.5

Conclusion

Thanks for viewing my trip report! Comfy seats, pleasant staff, plenty of amenities and a quirky brand Virgin America has earned a repeat customer. VX certainly strives to be in a class of its own and as much as I enjoyed the flight I do question the sustainability. Most airlines have caught up in terms of IFE, first class offering, and other hard product amenities thus eroding VX's product advantages. In advent of the merger with Alaska I'm curious to know what exactly the airline plans to do with VX. As far as the trip itself I thoroughly enjoyed my brief stay and had a blast. SFO is an amazing city with so much to offer! Comments are appreciated and if you have any suggestions as to how I can improve please share. In addition, stay tuned for my upcoming trip reports: DEN-PSP on UA (December 27, 2016), DEN-JFK on B6, and DEN-AMS on KLM (May 2017)

Information on the route Denver (DEN) San Francisco (SFO)

3 Comments

  • Comment 377328 by
    MrMax 144 Comments

    Good to see more FRs on VX. I live in San Francisco and I think VX is easily the best domestic airline based operating at SFO

  • Comment 377433 by
    NGO85 1622 Comments

    "the FA's were young late 20s through early 30's "hipsterish" millennials"
    - The whole VX vibe doesn't attract me at all. The night club mood lighting is just way over the top. I've never flown any of the Virgin group before, but have heard good things about VS's TATL service although they also have some of that flamboyant touch.

    Overall, it sounds like you had a good experience with VX and on a route that UA should dominate, VX probably offers a much better experience.

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Comment 377493 by
    Pilpintu 757 Comments

    Hi, JHESS95!!

    I apologize if some of my photos look like they were taken with a potato

    Gosh! Looks like all this GM food thing is getting out of hand! ^^

    the trademark "barking dog" hydrolics of the narrow body airbus.

    I still remember my first time on an Airbus and how scared I was when I heard that sound. I thought something was broken!

    First class (you know, for rich people)

    Thanks for this depiction of a higher standard of living I will never have access to. T.T

    please forgive me if I unintentionally omit crucial details

    On the contrary, it was a great report! Very entertaining and informative.

    I loved the tourism bonus. Never heard about cioppino before. Looks pretty much like a dish we have in my country. It made me hungry!

    Thanks for sharing. Keep up the good work! :)

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