Today Virgin America operated the first revenue inaugural flight of the Airbus A321neo aircraft. Flight VX1 took off from San Francisco at 8:00am PDT and landed five hours later at Washington D.C.’s Regan Airport. The occasion was celebrated by both Airbus and Virgin America with cake and balloons at the gate, and commemorative pins and key chains handed out during the flight. The A321neo is Airbus’s newest version of their popular A320 family of aircraft. Virgin America was the worldwide launch airline carrier for the new aircraft produced by Airbus.
Virgin America and Alaska Airlines have announced a major expansion of flights out of the San Francisco Bay Area. This is the first full year that Virgin America will operate under the ownership of Alaska Airlines. Last year was a mostly quiet year in terms of route expansion and changes at both airlines, which makes sense with management at Alaska Airlines preoccupied with the DOJ approval and completion of the deal.
After leaving the lounge it’s a short walk to gate 51A. It was about 10 minutes prior to boarding and the thing that struck me was how civilized the boarding process was. I don’t know if it was a function of VX, or the time, or the airport we were flying out of but everyone stayed seated and waited for their turn to board. First Class was called initially, and then Elevate Gold and Silver. I had the jetway almost to myself as I boarded the Airbus 320.
After checking out of the Hyatt Regency SFO we rode the complimentary airport shuttle to Terminal 2 at San Francisco International Airport. It was a nice day and as our flight wasn’t leaving until noon, we enjoyed a lazy morning on our way to the airport. Virgin America has 2 main hubs, Los Angeles and San Francisco. You would think they would have airline lounges at both airports, but they don’t; they only have the “The Loft” at LAX. Virgin America does offer reciprocal lounge access to the Virgin Atlantic lounge in San Francisco. Sort of.
Since Susan and I would be leaving from San Francisco Airport in the morning we elected to stay at the Hyatt Regency SFO the evening before. This served us in two ways in that we would avoid a drive from Sacramento on the day of our short trip to Los Angeles and, and we would pick up another stay toward our diamond status with Hyatt.
Susan and I had an expiring award night with Hyatt at the end of February and took the opportunity to redeem the award for an evening in the San Francisco bay area. Our go to Hyatt in San Francisco is the Regency which sits right next to Ferry Building on the Embarcadero. It’s a great property (albeit a little older) and a favorite of ours.
We left the Flagship Lounge and gate K7 was a short 5 minute down the K Concourse. We arrived 10 minutes early and after our short wait, the gate agent called for the boarding process to begin. It was right on schedule. American’s Boeing 737-800 craft has 16 seats in the first class cabin, in a very standard 4 rows of 2 + 2 configuration. As we came onto plane a friendly male flight attended greeted everyone “hello” as they walked on in. The cabin looked fairly new and clean. Because we had booked the itinerary a few days previously, Susan and I were seated apart in 6A and 6F.
Our journey started with a one-way Avis car rental to the San Francisco airport. After returning the car we took the AirTrain over to the international terminal and to the Cathay Pacific section for first class check in. It was a couple hours before our flight in order to have time to experience the lounge. The polite female ticket agent asked for our passports and worked at checking us in. She looked up and asked, “I don’t see your return flight?”