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There are a few reasons I love Virgin America first class that are personal to me, but that’s my favorite kind of review to write: one that only applies to me and has no relevance to anyone else. So here I go… A bunch of years ago, my phobia of flying was so bad that the thought of having to fly sent me into a panic attack. I still deal with being scared of flying – which makes sense given my chosen hobby, clearly. I’ve put more work into not being scared of flying than almost anything else I’ve ever done in my life – for a few years, it was like a second job, working every day for a couple hours trying to beat it. I’m sure I’ll write more about why I have a fear of flying and what I’ve done to combat it, because I bet that’s something that might actually be useful to people. I’d at least like to show anyone who’s embarrassed about having a fear of flying that I have it too, so let’s be embarrassed together. That’s beside the point of this post, however. (Although not too beside the point, given that I’m currently writing this on a Virgin America flight to Hawaii that’s one of the bumpiest flights I’ve had in years, and I’m stable enough mentally to write a blog post. Pat on the back to me.)
Back to 2010, when the idea of flying to me was like the idea of putting your leg in a bear trap to anyone else. I had to fly to Boston for work, and there was all kinds of weather for the flight home. I was freaking out thinking about the 7 hour flight back (headwind, yo), but to my luck, there were first class upgrades available for $199, which is way less than they sell for now. Even though I didn’t make very much money back then, I jumped on it and figured that at least the flight would be more bearable if I weren’t so crammed in for 7 hours. I was also new to using benzodiazepines to manage anxiety, and so I ended up taking WAY too much Ativan, and I was out for most of the flight. I remember it as this white leather cocoon of safety and security as I drifted in and out of consciousness, and the poor flight attendants had to wake me up at the end because I was the only person still on the plane. Ever since then, the idea of Virgin America first class has always carried this soothing, calming aura. I love it, even on short flights. Sitting in 1F (my preferred seat), even if I’m anxious about the flight, I feel like I’m in control and in my happy place.
Also, the layout of the cabin is great if you’re flying with someone. The bulkhead seats have tons of room in front of them, so you and your companion get a pretty good chunk of uninterrupted space. The fact that the bulkheads are made out of tinted plastic makes the space seem even bigger, since it doesn’t feel walled in at all. Finally, the way the seats are positioned in the cabin leaves some extra space between the wall and the window seat. This is really subtle, but having extra space on the side without crunching up against the wall just adds to the sense of spaciousness. Whoever did the design did a fantastic job.
Of course, there are some cons – most notably that the seats aren’t great when your flight is dragging into the fifth hour and you can’t fall asleep because the seats don’t quite go flat enough for you. (Unless you’re on drugs, which I try to take in very small doses or not at all unless I’m having a really bad day.) As much as I love the layout, it’s true that Virgin doesn’t really compete at the same level on routes where others fly flat beds. Still, though, it’s a trade off, because the lack of privacy on Virgin really makes the first two seats feel like “our space” when I’m traveling with my wife. I don’t get that as much in more modern business class products, although I realize in general that privacy between seats is pretty important in a lot of cases.
Finally, the food on Virgin is consistently good, and I don’t even have to order a separate vegetarian meal. I even took a picture of the cream of mushroom soup, because I thought it was funny how absolutely disgusting it looks. But it tasted good! Also, dinner service was delayed because of the turbulence, so by the time I got the soup, I was feeling just the slightest bit queasy from 90 solid minutes of moderate bouncing. Cream of mushroom soup seemed a wise choice at that point, given that I ate it during a short period of relative calm before the rocking and rolling started up again. Fingers crossed I don’t see it again in the other direction, since there are around 90 minutes left and it ain’t showing any signs of calming down.
Would you eat that mushroom soup? Is there anything I could have done to make it look more disgusting? What’s your take on Virgin first class. Are there any airlines or in-flight products that you have sentimental attachment to?