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My review of Virgin America – how short-haul business class should be (Part 1)

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My route to Las Vegas took me from London to Los Angeles on a British Airways A380 (review in a couple of days).  From LA, I booked myself onto Virgin America for the short hop to Las Vegas.

If you want to get a flavour for the airline, take a look at their safety video which I highlighted on Saturday.  It tells you all you need to know!

The Virgin America message seems to be:

We want to make flying fun and interesting and less stuffy, but

We also want to offer a far superior product to our competitors

They have, I think, succeeded.

It didn’t start incredibly well to be honest.  Having whizzed through immigration in record time, I found myself with a rather long gap before my Vegas flight.

The Virgin America website makes big claims for their lounge, The Loft.  In truth, it is pretty pathetic.  The view over the apron and runway is impressive (photo below) but there are no facilities to speak of and the food offering is poor.  There is a functional bar.  In no way does it justify the $40 cost of a day pass.

Virgin America apron

They would not even let me in with my First Class ticket (only refundable First Class tickets are accepted).  Luckily I had my Priority Pass with me and used that to enter.

After two hours of thumb twiddling, I boarded.

If you have flown Virgin Little Red you will have seen the mood lighting used in the cabin.  British Airways is doing something similar with its refurbished short-haul planes although I have yet to see it in action.  Virgin America does something similar but with some added pizzazz.  Take a look at this photograph of mine – the bulkhead is a single piece of clear purple Perspex!

Virgin America interior

Even in economy, Virgin America knocks other US and European carriers out.  Each seat has a built-in TV.  There is wi-fi (not free, but cheap – $3 for 30 minutes).  Seat pitch is 32 inches – substantially more than British Airways is now offering with its refurbished seats.  You can order food and drink via the TV, paying directly with a credit card via the screen.

Main Cabin Virgin America

If you want more legroom, you can upgrade to Main Cabin Select.  This offers a whopping 38 inches of legroom:

Main Cabin Select Virgin America

Then we come to First Class, where I was sitting.  I will discuss that tomorrow.

(Want to earn more Virgin Flying Club miles?  Click here to see recent articles on Virgin Atlantic, Little Red and Flying Club, and click here for the latest news on earning and spending other airline and hotel points.)

Comments (30)

  • Brian says:

    I think that for anything longer than a couple of hours, you need to go for Main Cabin Select (if you don’t want to fork out for First Class) – the extra leg-room and free snacks that can be ordered at any time during the flight, plus the free films, make it well worth the added expense, which isn’t that excessive. It is certainly far superior to AA First (domestic), which is, frankly, pathetic.

    • Stripy says:

      AA 1st may not be great (I definitely prefer VX 1st by a long way) but I’d pick AA 1st over BA CE any day.

  • Jb says:

    Was this flight booked on virgin miles ?

    • Rob says:

      No, good old cash. You can only use Virgin Atlantic miles when booking a return flight (as with all Virgin partners) and I only needed a one-way.

  • Chris says:

    Did you try the centurion lounge ?

    • Rob says:

      Schoolboy error on my part. It turns out that it is in the other terminal to the one BA use. I was stuck in “The Club at LAS” for two hours which I would not want to force on anyone!

  • George says:

    Last time I did the LAX – LAS route, it was with an AA turboprop.. 😛

  • James Ward says:

    This looks a very similar experience to Virgin Australia. Modern planes with similar funky lighting and fit-out. Their Coast-to-Coast service (SYD / MEL – PER) is more akin to international long-haul, especially up front.

    And I agree with you; the Virgin Loft at LAX was a bit of a let-down.

  • czechoslovakia says:

    Rob, don`t get exited about BAs mood lighting. Travelled on 3 BA A320s and an A321 over the weekend. Give me the old cabin any day. Much more comfy, more leg room, more recline. They seem to have been going mad with the “mist” humidifier. Couldn`t see the back of the aircraft? Mood lighting was limited to orange or blue. Whilst more attractive, yes, the new seat config is deeply more uncomfortable. So glad I hadn`t paid for CE tray table next to me 🙂

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