Update on Virgin America

I recently had a chance to fly Virgin America and noticed some changes since the first time.  I did happen to talk to another passenger on the same flight who said that they preferred Virgin America so much that they were on the flight even though it wasn’t flying to their actual destination.  They were going to take a train after the flight to go to their actual destination.

Keep reading to find out what changes I noticed this time around.

One change was that the people at the gate weren’t laughing and making jokes while doing the boarding announcements.  They didn’t announce their names.  On the plane, the flight attendants didn’t go down the aisle with bags of headphones and blankets asking if anyone wanted one.

Regarding the headphones, I guess that is because Virgin America now charges $2 for the headphones.  At the gate in the terminal, they have them in these clear boxes.  You drop your money in the collection box and you then get the headphones from the box with the headphones.  In the plane, you have to place an order on the seat-back screen, swipe your credit card, and then a flight attendant delivers it to you.

Meanwhile, the equipment is getting old.  On the flight, at least two seats had non-functional seat-back screens that couldn’t be fixed by the flight attendants rebooting the computer powering the screen.

On the other hand, checking in for a flight is still relatively painless.  They still use small laser-printed cards as boarding passess.  They still have agents at the ticket counters willing to check you in so you don’t have to use the kiosks.  And they have enough agents at the counters so there’s no line waiting to check in.  When I used the kiosk this time around, the printer was out of ink and printed a blank boarding pass.  I mentioned it to the guy standing there to direct people to open agents and rather than just direct me to an agent, he told me that they could take care of it at the counter.  He asked where I was flying to and took my check-in bag from me.  Then he led me to an open agent, dropped my check-in bag on the platform, and told the agent my destination.  The agent then printed a new boarding pass for me and tagged my check-in bag.

Virgin America recently sent me an e-mail saying that they are making some changes in the near future.  The good news is that they are about to offer fleet-wide on-board Wi-fi service on their planes in a couple of months.  The bad news is that they are now going to charge a flat fee of $15 for each bag you check in.  For over a year now, it used to be that the first bag was free.

In summary, Virgin America is starting to be like the other airlines and charge for things that used to be free.  On the other hand, the overall experience is good enough to continue flying on Virgin America planes.  While I was using my own headphones, those $2 Virgin America headphones weren’t too bad either.  They looked like good quality over-the-ear type headphones.


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