I decided to book a Virgin America to give them a shot on this short flight from SFO-LAS. The times paired up well with my Virgin Atlantic flight, and the prices were cheap. I booked in First Class to get the true “experience.” Check in was a breeze and so was security. I hung out at the Northwest WorldClub (or whatever it’s called now) for awhile before heading to the gate. I was quite exhausted at this point, a full 19 hours into my day! Boarding was called about 30 minutes before departure. Upon boarding, I was impressed with the looks of this plane–purple lighting. It was very trendy looking! I took my seat in the 1st row which is separated by a colored plastic, semi see-through bulkhead. No pre-departure drinks were offered but we were given bottles of water. Boarding took the full 30 minutes as the flight was quite full. After a quick taxi we were in the air and the AVOD was turned on. (Wifi is also available, but I didn’t use it.) The seats were about the same as the Delta International 757 seats- recliner style with several angles and settings available. I reclined my seat back and popped out the TV monitor to watch some live satellite TV (which worked). Drinks and a snack box (yes for a 1hr flight!) were served. I had to try the absinthe which they serve with Sprite, just to say I did! I must say it’s an acquired taste and I didn’t come close to finishing my mini-bottle. We were all laughing about how it’s not the smartest thing to serve in the air, even if this version is “only” 100 proof! The snack box contained three small tapas type items, a couscous salad, a tomato/mozzarella salad, and something else that I don’t remember. It wasn’t the best but is a nice touch for such a short flight and beats the Continental bag of peanuts. Before I knew it, we were ready to land. VX uses the B gates now so it was a small hike to baggage claim. Bags were off in short order and I shortly was on my way to the hotel. Overall this was a great experience for a short flight, I’d like to give them a shot on a transcon to see how their service really holds up.
Day 3 began very uneventfully, with breakfast and the final concurrent sessions of my conference at The Hotel Roanoke. I did win a one-night stay with breakfast for two at the closing session, which was cool. I had lunch at the hotel before departing for the airport, peanut soup and a salmon Caesar salad. Yum!
3 Apr 2009
US 4158 ROA-LGA 4:48-6:45 PM Seat 4C Exit Dash 8-100
The wind in Roanoke had become quite blustery, with wind gusts up to 60 mph, and the weather in New York quite stormy, so I was anticipating some trouble. And I was right, unfortunately. The flight was originally delayed until midnight, then gradually easied back to 10:30 pm, 9:10 pm, then finally 8:50 pm. I completely understood the weather and Air Traffic Control issues before me, but what bothered me was that the original gate agent in Roanoke was very uninformative. For about three hours, she never made a general announcement in the boarding area, and people kept having to get up and ask her what was going on. I personally got my updates from flightstats.com, usairways.com, and friends and family who checked other sources of information for me. Finally another agent arrived and announced that he would update us every 30 minutes and/or if there was a change in the departure time. Finally!
During my lengthly gate wait, I was thankful I had purchased food and had my computer, because it was a long sit. The Roanoke airport does not have anything past security except restrooms, gates, and a very small café, which closed around 7:30 pm. The guy working in the café was nice enough to shout out a last call to us before he closed!
We finally boarded around 8:25 pm and after all was said and done, the plane was about half full. I think some had left to try again tomorrow and some had managed to find other options. However, US Airways did not transfer any tickets to other carriers when I was there. All I heard the agent offer were flight options on US Airways the following day.
The wind was so strong when we boarded that the little Dash 8 was rocking at the gate. We pushed back and were airborne by 6:44 pm, and was the climb out ever rocky! That was probably one of the most turbulent takeoffs I’ve ever experienced. Finally we got above the weather where it smoothed out considerably.
The in flight service was surprisingly good for an Express flight. The flight attendant served us a full, complimentary beverage service, and gave us each three packages of Biscoffs. I thought US Airways/US Airways Express discontinued free snacks, but apparently there was a stash of Biscoffs on board. She also gave us each the entire can of our beverage of choice.
Our approach and landing into LaGuardia was also very turbulent and it seemed like the wind was still carrying us as we landed. But we landed at 10:27 pm, making the total flight time one hour 43 minutes. All-in-all, not a bad experience. A nearly four-hour delay was certainly better than what could have been.
Airport Experience/Information Provided to Customers = D
In Flight Experience = A