Kudos Virgin America
It would be incorrect to say I have a fear of flying, more like an aversion. Post 9-11’s heightened security, along with air carrier cutbacks, has given many airline employees carte blanche for surly behavior. Air travel has become a necessary evil to reaching a destination rather than the pleasurable first step of a journey. On a January 26th trip from San Francisco to San Diego, Virgin America proved the exception to that dismal modern-day rule.
More than two and a half centuries ago Benjamin Franklin said, “Well done is better than well said.” His words are as true today as they were when our country was a mere hatchling. This column is about a job well done.
It was a chilly winter morning. I huddled in the boarding area and looked out at the tarmac where a plane readied for our 7:10 departure from SFO. My eyes remained half closed. The alarm had gone off at an uncivilized 4:15 a.m. I didn’t notice that our Virgin America airbus was named the Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish, although that should have been my first clue I was in for a different kind of experience.
When I was a young woman I shelled out hard earned cash to buy my first car, a little black ford Falcon, I named my Black Beauty. Virgin America names their planes. When people name their cars, their stuffed animals, or even their fleet of airplanes, it suggests to me that they care.
On October 11, 2006, the first Virgin America aircraft was named the Jefferson Airplane in honor of the famous San Francisco band. Lead singer Grace Slick christened the airbus. Gavin Newsom and Arnold Schwarzenegger – then respectively the San Francisco Mayor and California Governor – were in attendance. With a base of operation in California, Virgin America called another plane, California Dreamin.’
Someone at Virgin America has a sense of humor and tagged one of their fleet the Air Colbert after the satirical comedian, and still others the Airplane 2.0, An Airplane Named Desire, Contents May Be Under Pressure, Let There Be Flight, My Other Ride’s A Spaceship, and The 1-Year-Old Virgin. Names that make you smile.
Virgin America’s Nerdbird
The morning we headed to San Diego, I slumped against my husband hoping for a few more minutes of rest before boarding. An attendant with sugar in her voice and cheerful written across her face broke through my groggy haze and began her pitch.
“We’ll board by category, starting with A,” she said. Then her routine diverged from any I’d heard before. “That’s A for you amazing folks patiently waiting.” I straightened up. Opened my eyes. Was she calling us amazing? Was this something other than the standard cattle call? After the first group checked-in, she continued, “We’ll now board B for beautiful passengers . . . ” Then, “ C for charming people . . .” And finally, “D for our delightful customers.” I scrutinized the attendant’s smile as we passed her. It sure looked sincere.
Cushy leather seats and adjustable headrests
I made my way to a cushy leather seat and adjusted the headrest. Yes, adjusted the headrest. I stand a mere five feet tall and expect to suffer with my head propped forward because my skull hits where the average person’s neck would be. This trip I was going to be comfortable.
There was an outlet between the seats, an energy source for my computer before it ran out of juice. The overhead mood lighting soothed my tired psyche.
Soothing mood lighting and screens on the backs of seats
A touch screen on the back of the seat ahead of me read like a multiple choice question on an easy test with no wrong answers: (a) touch and order food or other items, (b) watch TV, (c) listen to music, (d) play video games, or (e) none of the above.
A pouch below the screen was divided so my junk didn’t commingle with airline propaganda and cause a frantic last minute rummage through instructions and airsick bags to make sure I hadn’t left my book, sun glasses, or keys.
There had to be a trick somewhere. But, no, I disembarked without an additional surcharge. Thanks Virgin America. You turned what I expected to be another dastardly misadventure into something downright enjoyable. Along the way you proved customer service does make a difference.
And to think I chose Virgin America because they had the best price on my flight!
Company founder Richard Branson: A sense of humor and a goal of customer service
[Editor’s note: This was a totally unsolicited article. I had no intention of writing about an airline when I stepped aboard Virgin America. In fact, I had no camera and subsequent to writing this article I contacted Virgin America for photos. They gave me authority to use their photos, but had no input into anything I wrote.]
Julie Albrecht Royce, Travel Adventures Editor, is the author of Traveling Michigan's Sunset Coast and Traveling Michigan's Thumb, both published by Thunder Bay Press. She writes a monthly column for wanderingeducators.com.
All photos courtesy and copyright Virgin America