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View Full Version : Trip Report: JFK-LAX-JFK on Virgin America



Matt Molnar
12-02-2007, 01:56 AM
This is long delayed, but here goes. Sorry for the lack of pix.

Date: Friday, October 25, 2007
Route: John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) - Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
Airline: Virgin America
Flight: 317
Aircraft Type: Airbus A320
Aircraft Registration: N622VA
Scheduled Departure Time: 7:05pm
Wheels Up Time: 9:00pm
Scheduled Arrival Time: 8:10pm
Actual Arrival Time: 9:50pm

It was a hellish week at work, and though I wanted to leave the office around 4:45 for my 7:05 flight because I was worried about security lines at Terminal 4, I ended up leaving a few minutes after 5. The transit directions website trips123.com told me if I caught the 5:23 LIRR to Jamaica, I would make it to JFK at 6:00. So I took a cab to Penn Station, jumped on the LIRR, and grabbed the AirTrain.

There had been a steady drizzle the whole day, and as I approached the airport on the train, it looked like the visibility had deteriorated badly: the ATIS claimed a ceiling of 800 feet. An ontime departure seemed highly unlikely.

I made it to T4 a few minutes past 6, but thankfully no one was there. The Virgin America check-in lines were literally deserted. I had checked in and printed my boarding pass online so I just had to check my bag, which they tagged and I brought to the TSA area nearby.

I got through security quickly, and VA's gate, Gate 20, is literally just past it. Surprisingly the gate area was packed: the 6:35 San Francisco flight had been delayed, so passengers of both flights were sitting there. Many people were confused because although Gate 20 can park two aircraft at a time, the LCD display at the gate showed only the SF flight. Unless you asked someone or heard the announcement, you weren't sure what was going on.

On a normal day I would have been really bummed this debacle, but today I had left the office with a few important items still on my plate. While I was waiting in the terminal I managed to connect my laptop to my office machine via my Sprint wireless broadband card and finish up some important stuff. Phew.

Eventually the SF flight pulled up, unloaded and boarded, and we followed. Walked down the long split ramp to the jetway and boarded.

I was in awe of the interior of the plane. The lighting was subdued but perfect. The black leather seats were gorgeous. The music was upbeat. It was like walking through the door of a nice lounge, not a typically drabby airliner.

I headed back to my seat in 18A, plopped my camera bag in the overhead and sat down. This was the most comfortable airliner seat I had ever felt, more comfortable than the US Air first class seats I had tried at LGA Kids Day. The width was just right, and the leg room was fine. I took out my laptop and did some more work.

Turned out I would have an extra 90 minutes or so to finish up. After we finally pushed back around 7:30, we started taxiing. Departures were off the 4s according to ATIS...why were we headed toward the end of 13? Because that's how long the queue was. In a grim tone the captain announced that we would likely not be taking off for quite awhile, at least an hour, probably longer. About 40 minutes later he told us that this was the longest line he had ever seen at JFK. He instructed the cabin crew to hand out bottled water.

At exactly 9pm, 115 minutes after our scheduled departure, we made it to the south end of runway 4 and took off.

As we approached cruise altitude I began playing with the "Red (Beta)" IFE system. To date the only other truly interactive IFE system I had used was that on Delta's transcons. Red is far superior in its appearance, speed and functionality. The interface is clean and intuitive, it changes screens quickly

The part I was most excited about was the ability to order food from your seat, and this was extra important at this point because I had been hungry before I boarded the plane, and far more so 2 1/2 hours later without food. I ordered a sandwich with a Sprite and a bag of cookies, swiped my credit card, and waited. And waited. You're able to check the status of your order through the screen, and it kept saying it was on its way. About 30 mins later the flight attendants were well into their regular service when one got to me. Their carts have flat screen computer displays on top of them, apparently to handle on the spot transactions and let them know when someone places orders through Red. When she asked what I wanted, I told her I had already ordered quite awhile ago. She said they were having problems with the system and her display didn't show my order. It didn't matter too much as she had all the stuff I ordeed on the cart, so she gave it to me, but it still took longer than I would have liked.

The sandwich was excellent, salami, provolone and pesto on a nice roll. Served with a cup of some sort of Greek salad with feta, lettuce, onions, cherry tomatoes, also very good. Chocolate cookies were above average as well. Total was $10. Soft drinks are free, and in the rear galley there is a display of bottled water which you can help yourself to.

Flight was mostly uneventful other than that. Flew mostly over the great expanses of nothing that make up much of middle America. Only notable cities passing below were Indianapolis and Kansas City. On approach to LAX I saw one of the numerous forest fires that had swept the region that week.

Landed at LAX without a problem, about 55 minutes behind schedule.Overall my first flight on VX was exceptional despite the wx delay. I was already looking forward to my flight back.

http://map9.flightaware.com/flight_track_map.rvt?ident=VRD317;airports=KJFK%20 KLAX+;key=7053f6da266a2a2ac7e3d32fd59fb0d667f61c55 ;keytime=1196577838;height=600;width=800;departure time=1193356320;arrivaltime=1193374620

Date: Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Route: Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) - John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)
Airline: Virgin America
Flight: 312
Aircraft Type: Airbus A320
Aircraft Registration: N626VA
Scheduled Departure Time: 9:15pm
Wheels Up Time: 9:40pm
Scheduled Arrival Time: 5:40am
Actual Arrival Time: 5:10am

After a few days seeing the sites, spotting, and staying at the fantastic Westin Bonaventure in downtown LA (decent rooms, service was AWESOME), it was time to head home. Since my gf had booked her flight on Delta, which leaves from Terminal 5 while VX uses T6, we were hoping to find a way to wait for our flights together. The terminals are indeed connected on the outside, but on the inside, it wasn't clear if they were. Luckily we spoke to a TSA agent who informed us there is indeed a passage between the two past security. We sat at a bar/restaurant in T5 until it was time for me to head off to T6.

It was my intention to head to work after arriving the next morning, so I took an Excedrin PM and planned on sleeping every minute of the flight. This worked pretty well, and it's always great when you have a row to yourself. I managed to grab a pillow and blanket from an overhead a few rows back, pushed my seat back a little, plugged my headphones in, turned on the IFE's "Sleep" radio station, and huddled up against the wall. I was asleep soon after we took off.

I woke up as we were beginning our descent, somewhere over New Jersey. It was still quite dark, probably around 4:45am. We landed on 31L and got to the gate pretty quickly, about 30 mins early. I got my bags and proceeded to Terminal 3, where my gf would be landing shortly, and where we would catch a cab home. Her flight was on time.

Overall a great experience. Maybe I'm giving them too much credit after only two flights, but Virgin America is my new favorite airline. If they can figure out a way to continue delivering the product they do now and make money doing it, competing carriers, especially jetBlue, are going to have some very serious problems. I can't wait until they add more JFK routes.

http://map7.flightaware.com/flight_track_map.rvt?ident=VRD312;airports=KLAX%20 KJFK+;key=421c8be1dc734783c169440288d7cf470d8bea46 ;keytime=1196578650;height=600;width=800;departure time=1193805120;arrivaltime=1193821620

An odd post script: On our cab ride home to Astoria from JFK that morning, traffic slowed nearly to a halt on the Grand Central as we passed Shea Stadium. We ended up taking a shortcut...THROUGH LGA! The winding roundabout roads are ridiculous to drive through, but it definitely saved us about 10 minutes...it turned out the accident was RIGHT IN FRONT of LGA...not a good spot for the road to close during the morning rush. Anwyay, pretty sure it was my first time being in JFK and LGA in the same day. :)

JetBlueAirwaysFan
12-02-2007, 10:07 AM
Virgin America sounds like a hit! Glad you had a good trip.

PhilDernerJr
12-02-2007, 07:31 PM
Good report. I've never played with an interactive IFE and I'm looking forward to doing so one day.

I'm very excited to fly them. I hope they continue to grow.

T-Bird76
12-02-2007, 07:53 PM
Matt good trip report, next time I'm out in Cali I might book a quick LAX-SFO trip on VX just to give them look. A question though, this is your second or third time flying them correct? With such a limited route network and very conservative plans for expansion don't you feel you could utilize the miles earned on these trips better with an airline with a more diverse route network? From my perspective any travel I do I want to get as much out of it as possible for a return in the future. Now I travel allot for work and most of that travel is split between WN and AA and the rewards have paid off where if I flew VX for personal reasons or even a transcon here and there I'd really be wasting valuable miles.

mirrodie
12-02-2007, 08:15 PM
Hey Matt, thanks for writing this up. I've heard many accounts of VA's F product but not many coach tales.


This was the most comfortable airliner seat I had ever felt

Matt, I think you and I are maybe the same height. Were their coach seats really that good? And IIRC you've also sat on AA's 757 and A300 coccyx killing seats. Were VA's really that good?



there I'd really be wasting valuable miles.

Tom, as an AA loyalist, I'd normally agree. But have you tried to actually use your miles lately? They get harder and harder to use and I think that may be lowering the value of those miles.

T-Bird76
12-02-2007, 08:28 PM
Hey Matt, thanks for writing this up. I've heard many accounts of VA's F product but not many coach tales.

[quote]This was the most comfortable airliner seat I had ever felt

Matt, I think you and I are maybe the same height. Were their coach seats really that good? And IIRC you've also sat on AA's 757 and A300 coccyx killing seats. Were VA's really that good?



there I'd really be wasting valuable miles.

Tom, as an AA loyalist, I'd normally agree. But have you tried to actually use your miles lately? They get harder and harder to use and I think that may be lowering the value of those miles.[/quote:2b697]

Not for elites, there's no blackouts periods and you always get a seat ;) Even as a non elite I was able to use my miles when I went to Alaska during peak season. Again just from my perspective when it comes to flying, hotels, and w/e other travel related issue I'd like to think I'm investing in the future by showing loyalty to a larger brand that offers me choices. I'm sure Matt feels the same way about VX.

mirrodie
12-02-2007, 08:44 PM
Not for elites, there's no blackouts periods and you always get a seat

True but I think you are referring to AA metal only though. You won't find the same if you are flying on OW carriers, which is how I tend to arrange my mile usage.


Matt, if Virgin really does well and hooks up with a decent partner program, I may leave AA for them. Are they that good?

T-Bird76
12-02-2007, 08:52 PM
Not for elites, there's no blackouts periods and you always get a seat

True but I think you are referring to AA metal only though. You won't find the same if you are flying on OW carriers, which is how I tend to arrange my mile usage.

Try booking it under the AA flight numbers and you should be ok.

Matt Molnar
12-02-2007, 11:22 PM
Tommy: This was actually my first VX flight.

Re: their FF program, while they do count your points, they haven't begun offering rewards yet, so using points on their limited route network isn't yet a problem. :) However, I remember reading that they plan on offering rewards through other carriers, most importantly Virgin Atlantic, which would be awesome.

Mario: The seat is awesome. The leg room, of course, is nothing special (jetBlue wins that race hands down). But the support and the width are perfect. And they also look pretty cool, nothing like any other economy class seat I've ever seen. Above and beyond the practically wooden seats AA, DL and US fly you around in.

T-Bird76
12-03-2007, 08:57 AM
Tommy: This was actually my first VX flight.

Re: their FF program, while they do count your points, they haven't begun offering rewards yet, so using points on their limited route network isn't yet a problem. :) However, I remember reading that they plan on offering rewards through other carriers, most importantly Virgin Atlantic, which would be awesome.

Mario: The seat is awesome. The leg room, of course, is nothing special (jetBlue wins that race hands down). But the support and the width are perfect. And they also look pretty cool, nothing like any other economy class seat I've ever seen. Above and beyond the practically wooden seats AA, DL and US fly you around in.

Didn't you go to LAX not all to long ago? Was that on a different airline? God knows why I thought you've been flying VX for awhile now. lol Well glad you liked them, I would like to give them a shot in the future, more so if F class then Coach. Their F class seat looks like one of the best on the Transcon market.

Matt Molnar
12-03-2007, 11:34 AM
This was the same as my previously mentioned LAX trip, it just took me awhile to get around to posting the trip report. I have a couple more from even earlier that I haven't posted yet, WITH PICS!