Virgin America’s Main Cabin Select

Frequent Flier Programs, Virgin America

I’ve got more to write about from NBTA (tomorrow I’ll feature the battle of the First Class suites), but today I’m going to take a break and talk about Virgin America’s latest. Though I was supposed to meet with Virgin America spokesperson Abby Lunardini at the show, she ended up not being able to make it because it was right after the earthquake and she got stuck at her hotel. Of course, that won’t stop me from talking about their news of the week.

Remember when I posted earlier this month that Virgin America was up to something with their premium coach seats (bulkhead and exit row)? Well, they’ve finally announced what they’re going to do, and um, it’s ok, I guess.

Please excuse my lack of enthusiasm here, but I thought it was going to be something really good. I thought that maybe they would add more First Class seats or possibly create an elite level of their frequent flier program. It was nothing so bold. Instead, they’ve just created Main Cabin Select. If you sit in the bulkhead or the exit rows, you’ll still get a regular coach seat with a little more legroom. But now you’ll also get First Class amenities – free movies and food, premium check-in, etc.
Virgin America Main Cabin Select
See? Not exactly a huge change. It’s effectively First Class service in a Coach seat. The question is now . . . how much will it cost? They didn’t announce that, but they did say that you can begin purchasing these on September 15 for flights beginning mid-October. Previously, you had to pay between $15 and $50 depending upon the length of the flight to sit in those seats.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think this is a bad idea. I’m just a little lukewarm because my expectations were higher. My guess is that people weren’t paying for the extra legroom before, so Virgin is trying to package things together to get people to find value in that offering. If this does that, then more power to them.

Possibly the more interesting news for Virgin America fliers came in this release about their Virgin Galactic partnership. No, that partnership isn’t very interesting, but it does say way at the bottom that “By Oct. 1, 2008, Elevate members will be able to begin redeeming points for Virgin America flights on-line.”

I’m happy to see that finally happen. The airline has been around for about a year now, and they’re only now getting around to defining the program. This should be good news for those of you who have been stockpiling flight credits with no place to use them.

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24 comments on “Virgin America’s Main Cabin Select

  1. I just made a LAS-BLI reservation on Allegiant Air. It was $12 extra for any reserved seat and only $15 extra for a reserved seat in the exit row. It looks like am awful lot of people won’t pay even three bucks extra for more leg room. So I see why Virgin America is trying to do something else to dress up its extra leg room seats.

  2. Am I the only one that is worried this will cause non-trivial buydown from First?

    I mean, the only difference now is a seat.

  3. flightjunkie-

    Yeah, though I bet the “you get anything from Red to eat” does NOT apply to the meals served in F, just what’s available on Red.

    Here’s the interesting thing, though:

    Day of flight upgrade SEA-SFO to F: $50
    MCS SEA-SFO: $50


  4. What’s the day of flight upgrade? Is VX offering buyups during check-in to F for $50 SEA-SFO?

    Good point about the food…

  5. I can’t see this going over too well with the rest of the coach passengers, even if these people pay more. There’s a reason they have a curtain between 1st and coach.

  6. flightjunkie-

    Yes. I think it goes $50 for short hop (intra-CA/SFO-LAS/SFO-SEA), $100 medium (SEA-LAX, for now- 850 to 1499 miles), $250 long (all the transcon flights to SFO/LAX/LAS).

  7. Wow…won’t it be great when someone with an infirmity or injury who cannot legally sit in an exit row purchases one and then gets booted out by the fa’s because they cannot perform the functions required….talk about a nightmare for the on board crew!

  8. Debi – That shouldn’t be any different than what we see today. They still charge for exit rows now. Is there anyone at Virgin out there who can speak to how that is handled today? For those who have booked a flight, is there some sort of warning on requirements if you try to book the exit row?

  9. As I recall from the time I bought a exit row seat upgrade, VX does a “you know you have to help people in this row, so you’re not injured, right”? thing when you buy the exit row ticket… and keep in mind there’s no similar restriction on the bulkhead row, so in theory a flight crew member could switch a passenger in dire extremis. I don’t think it’s exactly a catastrophe.

  10. Thinking about just the medium and long haul pricing, it would be pretty compelling at half the prices stated by my brother Eponymous. Not so much at this price level. Then again I don’t pay for F either.

  11. Seems to be a nice deal.
    Anything to boost some more revenue.
    I did think that VX was going to put in a couple more rows of First Class though!

  12. Virgin America was denied an operating certificate for several years…because US law prohibits foreign ownership of US-airlines over 25%. One of VX claims during those trials was that they were not related at all to Virgin Atlantic. Now I see that VX customers will be able to redeem miles for flights on that airline…what gives? Korean airlines is flying from LAX to sao paulo, Air France from LAX to london. IF WE DO NOT PROTECT US CARRIERS…we will see them dissapear just like the steel industry, or the boat shipping industry(foreign owned)

  13. Dan Powers, that was from way out of left field. I agree we need/needed protectionist policies for the steel industry, but the vast majority of airline jobs aren’t as well-paying as steel industry jobs are/were.

    When it comes to the aviation industry, we should be glad when the Korean- and French-owned airlines fly us around. They do a much better job at it. VX has a far better product than UA(the other hub airline at my airport).

  14. Egotistical and arrogant upper management with bloated compensation that doesn’t come close to matching their productivity, and who couldn’t give less than a damn about their customers.

    Overworked, surly staff who calling indifferent is a gross understatement. An aging fleet of past generation aircraft lacking the amenities, professionalism service and creature comfort of most foriegn carriers.

    Protect US carriers?? Please.

  15. Uh, Dan, you do realize can redeem US Airways and United miles on Lufthansa, and Northwest miles on KLM, right?

    Shoot, on Alaska Airlines, you can redeem miles on British Airways, Qantas, Cathay Pacific, Air France and LAN…

    So, yeah. Bogus issue. Next, please.

  16. Dan Powers,

    You obviously bought/buy into all that legacy propaganda. VX has licensed the Virgin name, so why on earth would they not use it? Doesn’t that make good business sense? And they never claimed in so many words that they were “not related at all to Virgin Atlantic”. Both have a shareholder in common, and they’ve never denied that. The legacies were hoping to find that Sir Richard owned more than 25%, but the government found that he did not. End of story.

  17. I’m not sure I see the value here for most fliers.

    From what it sounds like, you can currently choose an exit or bulkhead seat on Virgin America’s longest flights for $50. With Main Cabin Select, for $100 you’ll get the same seat you can currently get for $50 plus the first class amenities.

    For this program to be worth it, then, the included movies, food, and drink have to be worth more than $50.

    Maybe I’m wrong, but even if a transcon passenger watches a movie (~$5), eats a meal (~$10), and knocks back a couple of drinks (~$5 each), they still don’t consume $50 worth of first class amenities. I suppose you could argue that the priority check-in and boarding make up the difference, but although I’ve never flown Virgin America, I’ve never noticed their counters and gates to be mobbed with enough people to make priority check-in and boarding worth $20 to $30.

  18. DCAview – I don’t think that’s the right way to look at it, because you don’t have the option of just paying $50 for the seat anymore. Clearly, people weren’t seeing the value in $50 for more legroom, so they tried to come up with a different model. Will $100 be worth it when you get more legroom and food, movies, priority check-in, etc?

  19. So on a long haul flight you pay $129 extra one way to get a bulkhead seat (normally free on other airlines), that is still cram’d in the 3 by 3 configuration. and you get a free snack style meal, value $9 bucks a free checked bag value $25 bucks, and a free cocktail. OH BOY!!! sign me up its a deal!!! Nope I will stick to the coach class not worth it. elemenate two seats make wider seats like in first class, and drop the booze and extras and I would pay it. I would gladly pay $129 extra for a first class sized seat and no frills, but not for a coach sized seat.

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