My flight back home to Maui was on Virgin America and, in fact, it was my eighth flight with them in the last few months. Verdict: Not bad. In fact, pretty good.
Virgin America flies an Airbus A320 between Maui and Los Angeles or San Francisco. It has a center aisle with three-and-three seating with a capacity of about 150 passengers, including just eight first class seats, making it unlikely that you’ll be able to snag an upgrade at the airport.
I booked first class on two of the flights and of course the comfortable seats and all the legroom are a blessing. I thought the food was comparable to what we all used to get in economy … except each “course” was served separately and the Scotch before and the wine during the meal were complimentary.
A word about the Virgin America uniforms: the pilots and first officers are in sort of a grey-brown outfit, no tie, no cap. I suppose the look would be called “smart casual” or something like that. I’m sure they love it. Me? I would prefer the people at the controls of the plane taking me somewhere at nearly 600 miles an hour look spit- and-polish sharp and with a military-like bearing that shrieks competence! Sorry, but these guys look like the pages at NBC who take you into the Tonight Show.
One novel touch: just before take-off, either the captain or the first officer comes out of the cockpit to welcome everyone on board and run down the specifics of the flight: weather en route, altitude, estimated time of arrival, and so forth. Only problem: most people think it’s a male flight attendant.
I always book a window seat and much prefer to keep the window shade up during the flight. I do believe it’s the result of a bit of claustrophobia. But that raises the interesting question of who controls the window shade? Consensus seems to be: the person in the window seat, in consultation with the middle seat and, to a lesser degree, the person in the aisle seat.
Some airlines—I’m sorry to say Hawaiian Airlines is one—instruct passengers to lower their window shades following the meal service when the entertainment is about to begin. I kept mine up the last time I flew to the mainland on Hawaiian, and a very stern flight attendant barked at me: “Sir! Window shade down, please!” I pleaded (or is it “pled”?) claustrophobia and got a special dispensation: I was allowed to lower the shade, but only halfway.