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I just got back from a business trip. I flew from Philadelphia, PA to Columbia, SC and back on a tiny little Canadair CRJ with cramped seats, no leg room and a few peanuts. My laptop started running low on juice halfway through the flight, which […]

I just got back from a business trip. I flew from Philadelphia, PA to Columbia, SC and back on a tiny little Canadair CRJ with cramped seats, no leg room and a few peanuts. My laptop started running low on juice halfway through the flight, which was just as well since my 15.4″ MacBook Pro could barely fit in the space anyway. True, it was a short hop along the east coast but I’ve been on cross-country flights on larger planes that were just as enjoyable. Not.

Between the hassle of check-in and security, waiting areas with uncomfortable seats and no power outlets, overpriced vendors and a blah flight, flying just isn’t a fun experience for those of us who don’t have enough miles for a red carpet club.

Virgin America Airlines launched yesterday with low cost flights that promise to be a web worker’s dream, taking up where JetBlue left off when it comes to catering to the budget-conscious and tech-addicted.

Currently, Virgin America is only servicing 5 US cities: San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Washington DC and Las Vegas.

New York (JFK) to San Francisco in late October is just $149 each way, the same as the cheapest direct flights available on other airlines for the same day. What’s the difference? A sampling, as Boing Boing’s Xeni Jardin reported from the inaugural flight:

  • Two 110 volt outlets for every 3 seats in the main cabin
  • Two wifi access points (no Internet on the flight yet, since regulatory approval is pending)
  • Ethernet LAN throughout the plane, which accommodates things like multi-player games and seat-to-seat chat
  • USB ports for charging devices
  • Personal video panel with touch-screen and QWERTY keyboard
  • Comfy leather seats, leg room and nice lighting
  • Inflight entertainment system with pay-per-view movies and MP3s

Virgin Atlantic’s popularity has proven that competitive prices aren’t the end of the story. Traveling wastes a great deal of time, and customers want a pleasant experience along the way. We’ll see if this new airline can compete. It may be a great flight, but if it’s consistently late, has a poor choice of flights in the long term, or has customer service issues all the tech toys and mood lighting won’t help.

  1. For years, you guys (US-based folks) have suffered poor service on coach class flights because of cost-cutting measures by the airlines. Airlines in Europe have only recently taken that trend as I have ended up on a number of European flights to pay for my dinner!

    Anyway, I hope with Virgin you guys will re-discover the joy of flying!

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  2. The tech aspect of their flight sounds good, but I still don’t consider $149 each way to be so hot. I fly back and forth from Florida to Tennessee on Allegiant Air direct flights for $39 each way all year long.

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  3. I think I saw where they’re doing San Francisco/LA for around $39-49. That $149 is cross country. A bit further than Florida/Tennessee.

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  4. I flew Virgin America from LAX to JFK last week and found the airline to be excellent. More leg room, extremelly pleasant and helpful flight crew, very cool technology at each seat (outlets for laptops at every seat as well) and the ability to order food or drinks at any time.

    It is the best airline I have taken in the US. I am just looking forward to them adding on more routes.

    Kim

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