My Virgin redux

Although I have just completed what was only my second round trip on Virgin America, I can see myself becoming a big fan of the carrier that once referred to itself – appropriately, I think – as “A breath of fresh airline.”

Like my first experience on Virgin America during the 2012 Christmas season, my most recent summertime sojourn was quite positive indeed.

Virgin America A320 at LAX
Some of Virgin’s gate personnel seemed a bit harried, which is understandable during the height of the summer travel season, but everyone at Virgin’s Loft lounge at Los Angeles International (LAX) and on board the aircraft were excellent: gracious, friendly, and accommodating.

Founded by Baby Boomer and rock-n-roller Sir Richard Branson, the airline takes a more relaxed, casual approach than its competition. Music at the ticket counter, in the lounge and aboard the aircraft is hip, with a bit of “house music” feel to it. Both the Loft lounge and the aircraft are done in deeper, richer colors that are further enhanced by mood lighting.

Even the required safety briefing has a hipness to it. Rather than requiring its flight attendants to read from a standard script while performing often-wooden pantomime moves, Virgin America opted to create an attention-grabbing, yet informative, video that, despite the countless times I have heard the information, I couldn’t help but watch.

From my description, you might think Virgin America would appeal primarily to a younger demographic. While that may be the case, there were plenty of passengers of Branson’s (and my) vintage in the lounge and aboard the aircraft. Speaking only for myself, I was made to feel quite welcome, not only by the crew but by other passengers. Maybe it’s because the mood lighting and the additional space helped contribute to a more relaxed, and therefore convivial, atmosphere.

Wait. Did I say “additional space”? Yes, I did.

Standard economy seats aboard the carrier’s A320s are 17.7 inches wide according to, which is 0.7 inches wider than many other airlines I have flown recently. Pitch in standard economy is 32 inches, which is an additional inch over many U.S. airlines. Main Cabin Select seats offer 38 inches of pitch for an additional fee. First class seats are 21 inches wide with 55 inches of pitch.

In-seat ordering 
I selected seats in Row 9, which is the first of two exit rows, because they offered additional legroom. However, perhaps because those seats don’t recline, they are not considered “select” seats and were available at no additional charge.

Once seated, passengers can access the entertainment center in front of them where they can watch television or other features, order movies on demand, and even place and pay for their in-flight beverages and snacks. Those who prefer can also order food and beverages directly from the flight attendants who seemed to spend more time walking up and down the aisle and checking on their passengers’ well-being than those on most other U.S. airlines.

Finally, the Loft lounge offers a respite from the craziness of the concourse for a modest $30 fee for a day pass. For comparison, United Airlines’ (NYSE:UAL) United Clubs charge $50 for a one-time visit to a single location, American Airlines (NYSE:AAL) charges $50 for a one-day pass to its Admirals Clubs, and Alaska Airlines (NYSE:ALK) charges $45 to visit its Board Room lounges for a day.

Guests in the Loft can choose from complimentary red, white and sparkling wines and two beers. Top-shelf spirits and food are available for purchase. In addition, the Loft at LAX looks out over one of the runways used by Airbus A380s, currently the largest passenger jet in the world. Watching these SuperJumbo aircraft take off and land is a bonus for aviation buffs.

Regardless of the ancillary benefits, it is the relaxed atmosphere and attentive service that will bring me back to Virgin America. If you haven’t experienced that for yourself, I encourage you to do so. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

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