Too Cool for School on Virgin America (Trip Report)

We had to head to Dallas for a wedding, and it ended up being a super cool trip. Why do I say that? We flew Virgin America, rented from Silvercar, and stayed at an aloft hotel. That’s WAY too cool for me, but it was a fun one.

We flew Virgin America for one reason – it was cheap. In fact, I almost paid more to fly American because the first return on Sunday on Virgin America wasn’t until 240p and I wanted to get home earlier. But Virgin America had a little one day sale that had a discount plus a free wifi code. It was only $268.30 a person, way better than we could have done any other way.

The flight looked empty in First Class, so I went to check in the night before to see about an upgrade. Apparently you can’t upgrade until 6 hours in advance unless you’re an elite, and there was no way I was waking up at 3a to do it. By the time I woke up, First was full. But considering they were charging $138 to upgrade to Main Cabin Select, I can only imagine that the price for first would have been too high for me to bother anyway.

With little traffic along the way, we got to the airport early. Terminal 3 still looks the same at LAX except there’s a lot more red paint. Oh, and the other half where Alaska used to be is pretty empty. Here’s a panaroma shot I took while waiting for our flight on the other side.


January 18, 2013
Virgin America 874 Lv Los Angeles 9a Arr Dallas/Ft Worth 155p
Los Angeles (LAX): Gate 35, Runway 24L, Depart 8m Early
Dallas/Ft Worth (DFW): Gate E33, Runway 18R, Arrive 14m Early
N638VA, Airbus A320-214, “San Francisco Pride”, ~65% Full
Seat 12F
Flight Time 2h33m

We headed over to the gate to board and I handed over my mobile boarding pass. It worked flawlessly at TSA, but here the agent was having trouble getting it to register. She hit the screen of my phone and that did it. It showed that the session had timed out so we had to step outside to log back on and check in again. These mobile passes are still a pain in the butt.

Once onboard we found that the flight was not that full. Most middle seats behind the wing were empty, but we were in a full row. No big deal. The captain came on to tell us that he wouldn’t be talking to us during the flight because he didn’t want to interrupt our movie-watching. He said if we wanted to know where we were, we could look at Google Maps. (The same announcement was made on the return.)

We pushed back a little early and were in the air right about the time we were supposed to be pushing back. Nice. I watched TV the entire time and used my free wifi code to get some work done. I was determined to try out the ordering system for food since I hadn’t done it before. (The only other time I’ve flown the airline was from LA to SF and back.)

They came around with drinks and I got a ginger ale. They also were handing out bottles of water for those who wanted it. Later, I ordered a tasty roast beef sandwich that was delivered to me in just a couple minutes. The system was definitely easy to use, although the touchscreen seems to require a little harder of a touch than I would like. I kept thinking I was bugging the person in the seat in front of me.

The rest of the flight passed very quickly since it was just like another work day for me. I think I must be shrinking because the legroom seemed much better than the last time I flew the airline. (Nothing has changed, so I really must be shrinking.) Overall it was a great flight. My only complaint was that the power outlet didn’t work.

Soon enough, we were descending into DFW and it was time to try out Silvercar. That post will be live on CNTraveler.com later this week. This was also my first stay at an aloft hotel. For $89 a night, it was great. But it’s kind of funny to see a loft-style efficient use of space in the wide open plains of Plano where it’s more novelty than necessity.

Thank you to everyone who came out to do a little Crankyspotting that Saturday morning. We had a good couple dozen folks come out, I’d say. Lots and lots of silver birds at DFW, but no sign of the new livery.

After a busy weekend, we were ready to come home, and I was determined to try for an upgrade this time. Sure enough, six hours before departure, I went to check in. It was $278 to upgrade. That’s way too rich for me for a 3 hour flight, so I passed.

When we dropped the car off, we hopped on the rental car bus to the terminal. I tried to check in on my phone to pull up the boarding pass and it just said “online check in not available for this flight” or something like that. Great. The Virgin America ticket counter is far from the gate, and we had planned on going straight to the gate. It was a slight annoyance that was alleviated when we found a kiosk right out front that worked.

This time, they offered us an upgrade for $139 each, half price. We decided to take it. It said ok and told us to pick a seat. There was only one on the seat map. We couldn’t move on without choosing seats for both of us, so we had to cancel and check in as normal. When we got to the gate, the agent said that First was now full. Bummer. We were ready to go.


January 20, 2013
Virgin America 879 Lv Dallas/Ft Worth 240p Arr Los Angeles 405p
Dallas/Ft Worth (DFW): Gate E34, Runway 18L, Depart 5m Early
Los Angeles (LAX): Gate 35, Runway 24R, Arrive 24m Early
N624VA, Airbus A320-214, Virgin America standard, ~65% Full
Seat 13F
Flight Time 2h48m

The gate agent was in a very good and extremely corny mood. She started by boarding the “Amazing A” boarding group. Then it was the “Beautiful B,” “Charming C,” “Dazzling D,” and “Excellent E.” We headed into the very long jet bridge at A34 and found it backed all the way up. Once down to the aircraft a few minutes later, we hopped on to find it looking about as empty as our original flight out.

We were buttoned up early and headed out to the runway complex on the west side of the airport. Soon enough we were airborne and winging our way west.

I had a nice brunch with friends beforehand so I wasn’t hungry on this flight. And I may have had a beer or two too many the night before, so I just stuck to water for this flight home. Really, all I needed was this:

The NFL playoffs were plenty, but I also had wifi and the air was smooth as glass. My only complaint? The noxious odor coming from someone in our general vicinity. Whew, it was bad.

Ok, I lied, I had one more complaint. My power outlet didn’t work again. But this time, the other one in our row did work and nobody was using it. So I stretched the cord out and we were good to go. My lithium ion battery didn’t even explode.

Soon enough, we were back home.

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