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October 1, 2008

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WHERE'S JOHNNY JET?                                 Virgin America To Seattle
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Greetings from the Pacific Northwest! This week we travel up the west coast to Seattle, Washington to visit friends and be a guest on Rick Steves' radio show. The weather was nothing less than spectacular and so was the entire two-day trip. If you're up for some not-so-sleepless nights, tips on how to get the best deal on a car rental and take in some sightseeing, then hurry up and join in the fun. In keeping with the west coast theme, our newest writer Dave Bushell takes us to Mendocino County, CA and my sister Georgie-Jet wraps up her whirlwind tour of New Zealand.

ESCORT PASS
Last week when we left off, we were at the Manhattan Beach Open; it's the Wimbledon of beach volleyball. My dad was visiting and we had so much fun. Instead of just dropping Frank the Bank off at the curb, I decided to see if I could escort him to the gate. My dad is hard of hearing so I used that as an excuse. So if you have a loved one who needs special care don't be afraid to ask the airline check-in agent for a pass to get you through security -- it shouldn't be a problem.

SIR RICHARD BRANSON
Last year around this time, I was invited to go on the inaugural LAX-JFK Virgin America (VA) flight but I couldn't swing it because I'd already committed to attendMAXjet's (now defunct) LAX to London inaugural flight on the same day. However, VA still treated me to a tour of their aircraft by the main man himself, Sir Richard Branson. Yes, I was surprised too when he came strolling down the deserted aisle and said, "You must be Johnny." It was quite a treat and I threw a few of those pictures into this week's video at the end of this story. Virgin America is based in San Francisco and they fly to New York's JFK, Washington D.C., Las Vegas, Los Angeles and San Diego. From LAX, they fly to all of the destinations above except for San Diego and Vega$. To make it easier, here's their route map for a visual reference.

VIRGIN AMERICA
Currently, Virgin America flies out of the dilapidated Terminal 6 but they are supposedly moving to Terminal 3 at the end of October (I don't think that's much better). However, VA does its best to spruce up the gate area by having a sleek check-in counter with fresh flowers. My experience began when I printed the boarding pass the night before on VirginAmerica.com. Not surprisingly, their website is pretty cool and user-friendly. Lucky me, there were plenty of empty seats in coach there was no need to spend the extra $15 for an exit row or $100 for an upgrade. Those options cost more when flying across the country (Duh!). TIP: If the security line at Terminal 6 is too long like the day I was there, then walk a few steps to United's Terminal 7 checkpoint. The agent warned me it's a long walk by going this route but it was okay because I not only needed the exercise but it saved me a lot of time and frustration. Besides, who likes to stand around and do nothing? BTW: Is it just me or have you noticed that the TSA agents have really started to check IDs closely? They now use this special flashlight to see if the state seal is on your license or not.

LAX TO SEATTLE
Now to the good stuff. When I boarded the plane, there was a bin to grab either a pair of traditional disposable headsets or ear buds. This was free going up to Seattle but I guess they instituted a $2 charge during my two-day trip, because it was no longer free on the way down. When I stepped on to the plane, I forgot how cool the interior is. It's a totally different feel than any other and with the black leather seats, white hard shell seatbacks, purple and pink mood lighting, it has a classy pimp's smoothness to it. The plane was so empty, everyone was able to spread out and grab their own row. Score! However, the armrests donít go all the way up. The female pilot got on the PA and said that flight time would be two hours and 10 minutes and the 11:35am flight was airborne by 11:39am. Gotta love that!

THE BEST ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEM
The cool part about VA is that they fly brand new Airbus A320s and in each of the seatbacks is a nine-inch video touch screen with the most advanced in-flight entertainment system of any domestic airline. They come with a handheld remote to turn on the 24 live channels of satellite TV (CNN, ESPN, Cartoon Network, BBC Ö), a variety of video games, 30 free music videos, MP3 music files and 25 pay-per-view, on-demand movies. They also offer 50 premium TV shows like The Office, Simpsons, South Park, Monk and Two and a Half Men for 99 cents an episode. On the flip side of the remote is a keypad so passengers can type; either messages to fellow passengers and soon to surf the net when Wi-Fi is installed. As a frequent flier, I really appreciate this and the 110-volt power ports each seat has so you'll never run out of juice. As if that weren't enough, (is Branson ever satisfied?) passengers can view flight progress and order food/drinks from their seat. That's an industry first. Hungry passengers just choose what they want. There are 30 choices of drinks: beer, wine and hard alcohol go for $6, while water and soft drinks are free. There are six snack choices (Chex Party Mix, Pringles, cookies Ö starting at $2.50) and two meal choices: Monterey beef wrap and a fruit and cheese plate, both $8.99. They don't take cash so have the plastic ready. It's really genius, isn't it?! FYI: The flight attendants still come down the aisle with the drink/food cart and then set up a water bar in the back near the bathrooms so passengers can grab a free bottle of water. Why can't all the airlines do this? FYI: Check out the Virgin Airlines deals on Travelocity.com.

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Pictures From

The Trip

 

Mendocino County Story

 

Auckland, NZ Story

 

Virgin America

 

Sir Richard Branson

 

Long Walk To Gate

 

Gate At LAX

 

VA Seats

 

Mood Lighting

 

On-Time!

 

Entertainment Systems

 

Live TV

 

Order Food/Drinks

 

HOUSEKEEPING

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