I realize I’ve done a lot of trip reports lately, but that’s because I’ve had some unplanned travel. This trip was the worst example of that. We had an unexpected death in the family, and that meant I had to head back to the Bay Area. While I don’t want to waste too much of your time on trip reports, frankly, I’ve been having trouble keeping up with my posting schedule in light of what’s been going on. And trip reports are easier to write than anything. So, I’m going to post this today, then take off Monday for Presidents Day, and hopefully get right back to where I want to be starting Tuesday.
I could have flown into either San Francisco or San Jose for this trip, but a quick check of pricing made for an easy decision. When I went to book tickets on January 31 for a flight the next day, I looked to JetBlue out of Long Beach first. No dice. The schedule just sucks. It was either an 8a flight, which was too early for us to be able to get someone to watch our kids, or a flight after 5p, which was way too late. On the return, it was 1p or 730p and I knew the funeral would be done by 2p. So I went to look at LAX.
Walk-up fares were running over $200 each way on everyone into San Jose or San Francisco… except for Virgin America. For some reason, Virgin America has put a very low $83.10 one way walk-up in the market. It’s in a low fare bucket, but there was plenty of availability. I booked the flights and went to get packed.
We checked in online and headed to a fairly quiet LAX. Though we had no checked bags, I did notice that the skycaps have a sign saying that they don’t take tips. I like that. Security was empty and we were on the other side with some time to waste.
My wife went to buy some essentials in the gift shop (I think it was Swedish Fish and Bugles), and it’s there that I found the dumbest airport souvenir that I’ve ever seen for sale.
I mean, who the heck would ever buy that?
We wandered into the gate area and I was hoping to see if I could change our seats. We were scattered since no two seats were available together when we booked. I looked around for the counter for our gate when I realized that Virgin America didn’t have one. Instead, they had a cluster of counters in the middle which apparently work on all gates. It was a bit confusing and it made it hard to know if I should stand in line somewhere or not.
There was no luck in getting better seats, but really, we didn’t care that much. I boarded first since I was further back.
February 1, 2015
Virgin America 927 Lv Los Angeles 1125a Arr San Francisco 1245p
Los Angeles (LAX): Gate 37B, Runway 24L, Depart 1m Late
San Francisco (SFO): Gate 50, Runway 28L, Arrive 13m Early
N623VA, Airbus A320-214, Standard Red and White colors, ~99% Full
Seat 23A, Coach
Flight Time 56m
I’ve done this before, but I’m still taken aback every time I get on with the purple mood lighting. It just looks strange. I went all the way to the back and took my seat on the window. The flight was pretty full. I took my seat, pulled out my headphones, and flipped through the inflight entertainment system. I settled mostly on pre-pre-pre-pre-Super Bowl coverage.
The captain came on and I had to do a double take. His voice had that same wrasp and inflection as that of Doug Parker, CEO of American. Fortunately, Doug was not flying our airplane. We pushed back and headed north.
There was some light chop much of the way but Captain Kevin left the seatbelt sign off the whole time. Thank you, Captain. This was minor stuff, but I feel like most pilots in the US would have left the sign on. So, kudos.
I actually logged on to wifi with the hope of finishing up my posts for Monday and Tuesday because I knew once we arrived, I wouldn’t have much luck or be in a state of mind to handle it. The flight attendants came through and handed me a small bottle of water. Yes, a bottle. I love that because then I don’t have to keep it on the tray.
I finished my work, closed up, and started watching as we glided in over a green Silicon Valley.
That impossibly beautiful campus at the bottom right of the photo is Stanford. We parked in Terminal 2 nice and early, grabbed something to eat on the way out, and headed to the rental car facility.
After an incredibly difficult couple of days, it was time to come home. I was completely spent emotionally. We dropped the car off and headed to the terminal with just the right amount of time. We checked in and got our boarding passes, walking through security in just a minute.
My wife wasn’t in much better shape than I, so she went to get a 20 minute chair massage while I finished buying some wine and macaroons for our friends who stepped in to watch our kids while we were gone. I shuffled over to the gate area and thought it looked pretty empty.
When they called for boarding, they said our flight was almost half full. The gate agent was almost apologetic saying that it wasn’t late enough in the day for the business crowd but it was also an off-peak time of year. I told him he didn’t need to apologize. No traveler was going to complain about a half empty flight.
February 3, 2015
Virgin America 936 Lv San Francisco 410p Arr Los Angeles 530p
San Francisco (SFO): Gate 55, Runway 1L, Depart 6m Early
Los Angeles (LAX): Gate 35, Runway 24R, Arrive 19m Early
N842VA, Airbus A320-214, Standard Red and White colors, ~45% Full
Seat 17A, Coach
Flight Time 54m
I never noticed before that Virgin America has taken mood lighting to a whole new level at SFO. Even the jet bridges have it.
This time my wife and I were sitting together and I slumped into my window seat, still wearing my suit from the funeral. We pushed back a little early and were airborne in no time. There were just a few high clouds around, but the captain said he expected it to be smooth. Turns out he was wrong. As we got near the bottom of the cloud layer, we had a good couple jolts. Not long after, he descended back down to smooth altitudes.
I thought about having a drink onboard, but I was just so tired. I had a bottle of water instead. My wife slept as I just stared off into the distance as we made our way home.
We landed early and our friends weren’t able to pick us up. Instead of taking a cab, we just hopped on to the Quikpark shuttle and got ourselves an Uber from there. Overall, I had a great experience flying Virgin America. It’s really the little things – like the bottle of water – that make it feel just a bit better. But of course, that’s not why I chose Virgin America on this very short flight. It was all about the price and a schedule that worked on a trip I really never wanted to take.