Virgin America Does It Different
Last week was my first time. I was a little nervous at first, but the purple lighting and house music quickly got me in the mood. As I sunk into leather, strapped myself in, and got ready for a long ride, a safety video showed me that this could be easy, even fun, and relaxed me for what would be the rest of my cross-country flight with California-based airline Virgin America.
Now I’ve been with a lot of airlines in my day, but Virgin America does it different. From the aforementioned mood lighting to gate-agent-led games before boarding to the interactive chatting feature in-flight, I stayed busy from start to finish. Like JetBlue, each seat onboard in economy class gets its own TV screen and channels to surf, but Virgin America goes much further, offering an in-flight entertainment system called “Red,” with a choice of movies, games, music videos, radio stations, and even on-demand menu options—plus I had my own remote control!
Mood-lighting photo courtesy of Virgin America.
An hour into the flight, I discovered I could order food and drinks whenever I wanted from my seat, pay for it with a credit card, and—viola!—a flight attendant arrived three minutes and $13 later with a fruit and cheese plate and a glass of wine. No interminable waiting for the aisle-clogging cart and I didn’t even have to miss a second of Amy Winehouse’s latest music video.
The music system kept me busy for the next half-hour. With hundreds of artists and songs to choose from, I set about creating the ultimate playlist, which I then promptly lost by switching over to the seat-to-seat chat room, which was disappointedly empty. Undeterred, I chose my plane alias (“flyerette”) and typed out exuberantly, “Hi plane”! Ten minutes later, I was still waiting for a response when a red exclamation point flashed on my screen.
It was a message! Someone sent me a message on the plane! This was very exciting. Who could it be? While visions of the man of my dreams began flashing before my eyes, it ended up being nothing nearly so thrilling as all that–just my sister texting me from across the aisle to complain about the annoying perfume of the woman in front of her.
I spent the rest of my flight playing a word-scramble video game (yes, I’m that geeky), watching Will Smith evade the lions in “I am Legend,” and memorizing the snack options just in case hunger struck again.
In sum, it seemed to me that in an age of ever-diminishing in-flight perks, Virgin America managed to buck the trend and make flying actually… fun.
My name: Rachel Berg.
Favorite way to get around: By Venetian gondola during starlit high tide, gliding past decaying and slightly spooky palaces, with perhaps a bottle of prosecco placed between the gondola seat cushions.
View that took my breath away: Unable to sleep in the mystical city of Sfat in Israel, I wandered outdoors predawn and was treated to a purple-on-purple sunrise below the mountaintop that seemed to emerge feet-first through ground-level clouds.
Greatest travel lesson learned: Sunny weather isn't everything. Some of my best travel memories involve go-karting through a deluge turned mud-fest in Mexico, drinking tea in the cold Denali tundra, and watching electric thunderstorms roll through national parks out West.
Most challenging travel moment: Getting leveled by altitude sickness in Cuzco and realizing that my body was forcing me to slow down and rest despite the fact that there was so much to do and see.
Travel ambition: To see the northern lights.