Virgin America Brings Technology To The Skies

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I’m currently on my first Virgin America flight to San Francisco for the Game Developers Conference. Virgin gave me a free roundtrip ticket and asked for a review so here I am.

Being 6’4” and 350lbs, flying is always an issue; most notably when it comes to leg room. I’ve had a recent love for Jet Blue because of the extra leg space and leather seating. They also have LCD screens on the back of every seat. I usually don’t take the exit row because I need a seatbelt extender for my big ass and most airlines won’t allow you to sit in that row if you need an extender. Thankfully, Jet Blue has so much room it’s never necessary.

In comes Virgin America. They have done absolutely everything to bring air travel into the modern age. They have all leather seats with adjustable head rests, LCD touch screens on the back of every seat, satellite tv, video games and food ordering via the Red interactive environment. I’m writing this review on the plane because I also discovered that they have AC outlets under EVERY seat. My laptop battery is having alzheimers and I can’t use it without plugging it into AC power. Up until now, I’ve never used my laptop on a flight. Next to each AC outlet is also a USB and RJ45 port. You can charge your cell phone or camera while you fly.  In the future, they will be offering broadband access to the entire plane through the use of the Ethernet port under the seat.  How cool is that?

The plane has all of it’s windows closed by default. They have a neon blue and purple lighting system that looks like something out of Star Tours. All the seats use black leather in the front and white plastic in the back. The plane I’m on is an A320.

The Red interactive environment is still in beta and not everything worked. They have a remote control that comes out of the seat. On one side it’s a tv remote but flip it over and it has a qwerty keyboard, d-pad, 4 game buttons and 2 shoulder buttons. The games you could play were clones of many popular titles like Tetris. There was however, one classic gem called Doom. I loaded it up but it was lagging like crazy so I turned it off. In fact, none of my games would play like they were supposed to. I did see one other fella playing Doom at full speed with no issues though.

With Red you can order movies and music videos, all which are free. If you want premium movies there’s a charge. There’s also a menu where you can order beverages and snacks. You pull up the menu using the touch screen, pick your drink or snack or food, add it to the cart and it’s brought to you by a flight attendant. It’s like ordering goods online and having them shipped to your seat.

In the talk menu there was seat to seat, chat room, tv chat and email & text messaging. None of these were functional at the time of my flight but they seem like really cool features.

The last cool feature they had was Google Maps built right into Red. By clicking the map button you could see exactly where you were on the map. It gave altitude, air speed, distance to go and outside temperature.

Currently, Virgin America offers service in New York, Las Vegas, San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle. San Diego just opened this month. I really hope they plan on adding it to Boston because I had to catch a greyhound to New York to get this flight. In fact, Virgin was courteous enough to put me on an earlier flight that went straight to San Francisco instead of my schedule flight which would have had me stop in LA and switch to another plan. The one I’m on is about half full and I have the entire exit row to myself.

Virgin America has brought air travel into the 00’s. They have every comfort a geek could want. They are affordable, courteous and fast. The seats are so comfortable I would never think of upgrading to first class. However, first class has recliners with leg rests, seat massagers, LCD screens on the arm of the seat and reading lights. My orange juice that I ordered with Red has just arrived so I’ll end this review with a thumbs up to Virgin America.

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