While writing in Triumphs & Tribulations XXI this morning, I came across the post I wrote in Volume XIV on this day in 2014. I had just finished booking an early morning Virgin America flight from San Francisco to San Diego as part of a 2-week West Coast swing. Even today, it saddens me that my favorite domestic airline called it quits as the merger with Alaska Airlines was completed in April 2018. For the better part of 7 years, I had been a faithful customer of Virgin America Airlines. Now, those days are long done. All I have are the memories and that brings me to this week’s moment in the Flashback Friday series: my initial Virgin America experience.
How I first came across this moment? My first experience with Virgin America occurred on October 2, 2011. After spending a month holed up in Tokyo to finish out the Long Hot Summer of 2011, I arrived in Los Angeles on September 29. Instead of making my connecting flight back to the DC area via Reagan National Airport, I stayed put in LA to kick it with my cousins in the San Fernando Valley. I hadn’t seen them since we were eating those humongous Little Caesars pizzas back in 1997. After some initial difficulty finding a reasonably-priced flight from Los Angeles to any of the DC area airports, I settled on Virgin America. The flight was an October 2 departure out of LAX at 10:05pm PDT, arriving into Dulles International Airport at 5:55am EDT the next morning…a Sunday night redeye. I arrived at the check-in station at around 7:30pm that Sunday evening, starting my Virgin America experience.
What it meant to me then? The entire experience could be summed up in one word: electric. From the red carpet and urban music playing as I walking up to the check-in station at LAX to the red uniforms worn by the employees, I was instantly enamored by the airline. I was absolutely captivated and it didn’t stop once I got on the plane. After everybody boarded and we took off from LAX, they dimmed the lights to this purple hue that looked like black light. It was an incredible vibe. The in-flight entertainment was also on-point, highlighted by the awesome inventory of artists that were part of the Virgin Records label or had their music published through EMI Music Publishing. I fell asleep about 2 hours into the flight and it was probably the 2nd most comfortable sleep I’ve ever gotten on an airplane—nothing will beat the NRT-HKG flight I took in April 2010. It was definitely the most comfortable sleep I’ve had on a domestic flight. I woke up about 20 minutes before we were due to land at Dulles. The flight attendant—all decked out in her red uniform and red high heel pumps—offered me some orange juice before she closed up shop for the remainder of the ride into IAD. I was one of the last ones off the plane. I sat back a little bit, just taking in the experience. As I disembarked, American Airlines was no longer my favorite domestic airline. There was a new kid in town: Virgin America.
What it means to me now? Between my October 2011 maiden flight and the April 2017 final flight, I sat on 22 Virgin America flights…enough to gain some traction in their Elevate frequent-flyer program. 7 of those flights were the same LAX-IAD redeye I took to punctuate my weekend getaways to Los Angeles on the tail end of the Joint Base Andrews assignment. Nothing beats that 1st go though. That flight was awesome…easily one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. It’s unfortunate that I won’t get the Virgin America experience going forward but I do have confidence in Alaska Airlines. We’ll see if they can match ¼ of what Virgin America meant to me.