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November 25, 2009

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WHERE'S JOHNNY JET?                    Virgin America

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On Sunday, I flew one of Virgin Americaís (VX) newest routes; Fort Lauderdale (FLL) to Los Angeles (LAX). Iíve flown Virgin America before, but only on a short hop from LAX to Seattle (SEA) so I didnít really get to experience what itís really like. Well, hereís my play by play.


Check-in at the FLL Airport was smooth as can be. It took less than a minute for the friendly agent to print my boarding pass and check my unusually large bag, which normally costs $20. Since I was a guest of Sir Richardís it was free.

There was no line at security, so I zipped from the curb to the gate within 4 minutes. Although I was a guest of Virginís, they didnít give me a special seat (9D) on the A319 aircraft. It was comfortable, but a bit tight since I had a 6-foot seatmate. I contemplated upgrading to Virgin Americaís "Main Cabin Select" (MCS), which are regular coach seats but with more legroom. I couldnít justify spending $100 for an exit row or a bulkhead seat, especially since only middle seats in those two rows were available. The upgrade does come with perks, though, like priority check-in/boarding, designated overhead bin space, free drinks, food and an all-access pass to Virginís in-flight entertainment system (NOTE: 11 out of the 12 seats were taken).

Virgin America has two flights a day on the FLL-LAX route. The first leaves at 7am and the other at 7:20 pm. I was on the latter and I planned on getting a lot of work done since I was playing all weekend on the Oasis of the Seas. Each VX seat comes with a 110-volt power port so you'll never run out of juice. However, the moment I walked on the brand new plane and remembered the mood lighting (which just makes me want to sleep) and their individual 9-inch in-flight Entertainment system called Red with 24 live channels of satellite TV (CNN, ESPN, Cartoon Network, BBC), a variety of video games, MP3 music files, 25 pay-per-view on-demand movies and premium TV shows, I knew it was going to be too short of a flight. And it was. Actual flying time was 5 hours and 10 minutes.

I didnít even mention the remote is a keypad so passengers can type; either messages to fellow passengers or surf the net using Wi-Fi. Whatís crazy is that, thru January 15th, Virgin America is offering free Wi-Fi to all its customers thanks to a partnership with Google. Itís pretty mind-blowing to be 37,000 feet up and communicating with your friends and family below you via email or IM (they block Skype and other VOIPS). Itís even more mind-blowing that I was tweeting with colleague Spud Hilton from the San Francisco Chronicle who was also in the sky, but on a FLL-SFO flight. You have to love technology.

This was the first time I was able to try VXís on demand food/drinks by using Red. I ordered a chicken wrap ($9) and a bottle of water (free) but it took the flight attendants a good 20 minutes to bring it to me. Iím going to give them a pass since it was right after take off and the flight was very turbulent, but Iím anxious to see how quick they normally react. FYI: They still come down the aisle with the drink/food cart twice and there are all kinds of choices from Patrůn Tequila ($8.99) to soft drinks (free) and snack choices like Chex Party Mix ($3). They don't take cash, so have the plastic ready.

Thereís also plenty of bottled water in the back near the bathrooms so passengers can grab one whenever they like. Why can't all the airlines do this or be like Virgin America? No wonder they have been winning all kinds of awards like Condť Nast Travelerís Readers? Choice Awards for ĎBest Domestic Airlineí.

NOTE: In addition to serving LAX from Fort Lauderdale, Virgin America offers twice-daily service to SFO. Virgin's closest rival, JetBlue, has also begun offering those same nonstops.

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Note: This trip was sponsored in part by Virgin America

Copyright 2009 JohnnyJet, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Pictures From

The Trip


Departure Screen


FLL Airport


Virgin America Agent


Virgin America


Sir Richard (2007)


VA Seats


Mood Lighting


Entertainment Systems


Live TV


Order Food/Drinks



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