Review of Virgin America’s current in-flight, seat-back entertainment for cross-country flights

I have been toying with idea of going for status on Alaska ever since the merger with Virgin America.

During a recent trip from SFO to JFk on Virgin America, I was surprised (I’m not sure why) to see that the airline was charging to watch specific TV shows and movies. Since airlines will probably follow this trend of charging for specific content, I wanted to share the costs of in-flight, seat-back entertainment that Virgin America offers for cross-country flights:

Free

  • Dish satellite TV, which includes CBS, NBC, Fox, Comedy Central, ESPN, and CNN (this is what I watched)
  • The Big Bang Theory (Season 2), Jane the Virgin (Seasons 1), and single episodes of NCIS: New Orleans, Elementary, and Madame Secretary
  • Featured content, which is basically ads from LinkedIn, GoPro, and several introduction to films that likely paid Virgin America to be featured for free

$3

  • TV shows: Dice (3-episode packs), Billions (2-episode packs), Fraggle Rock (per episode)

$5

  • TV shows: Divorce (4-episode pack), Last Night with John Oliver (4-episode pack), Vice (4-episode pack)
  • Movies: Ovarian Psychos, Hooligan Sparrow, Transfatty lives

$8

  • Dirty Things, The Comedian, Meet the Patels, Hell or High Water

 

There are a few extra movie/TV shows available then I’ve been able my list, but I tried to compile it as best I could before passing out.

Overall, the free entertainment was enough for me, although I definitely would have preferred to watch a movie rather than CNN (what I ended up watching). I’m not a fan of airlines charging for entertainment while flying, but appreciate the free satellite TV I got from Virgin America (I had to pay for it on the way back from Miami to SFO with United).

After 3 bad experiences in a row, I am no longer going for status on Alaska Airlines

I am huge fan of Virgin America, and my friends in the Pacific Northwest uniformly won’t stop talking about how amazing Alaska Airlines is.

So, when the Alaska/Virgin America merger was announced, I decided then and there that I was going to go for status on the airline, and possibly make it my domestic airline of choice.

But as I sit in the Puerto Vallarta airport waiting for my Alaska flight, which has been delayed “at least 1.5 hours,” I’ve realized this has been my third bad experience in a row, and have decided to no longer try for status on the airline.

Somewhat ironically, the reason I’m flying on Alaska right now because this summer, a flight I was on from SFO to Portland was delayed almost 3 hours, and I was given a voucher for $125 towards another flight. Delays, in general, are frustrating, but for that flight, I was heading to Portland for a dear friend’s wedding and missed her rehearsal dinner as a result. For that flight, I told them of my urgent need to get to Portland for the dinner, but the gate agents made no effort to rebook me. This was strike one.

Then, in January, again thinking I would go for status on the airline, I decided to book a Delta flight to LAX from SFO, taking advantage of the Delta/Alaska partnership which is ending in May.

Days after my flight, I didn’t have my miles posted onto my Alaska account, which I blogged about. A month later, 3-4 calls (average wait time over 1 hour), and 5 e-mails later, and my miles still had not posted. Delta and Alaska both confirmed the problem was on Alaska’s end, so about 6 weeks after the flight, I called Alaska and told the agent (again after waiting an hour to speak to her) that I wasn’t getting off of the phone until the miles were posted to my account.

Although the woman was nice enough, it took over an hour for the problem to be resolved. She said the airline was having difficulty handling the volume of new Virgin America customers, but when I asked why my previous 5 e-mails had been ignored, she merely apologized and said this wasn’t the service Alaska usually gave customers. I politely disagreed, letting her know this was the quality of service I was used to receiving from the airline.

Nevertheless, when my friends decided to go on a trip to Puerto Vallarta, I decided it would be the perfect time to use my voucher, and to continue my quest for Alaska status. What a mistake! While my friends, flying on United, took off on time and had their upgrades confirmed, I was standing in line waiting to board when, 10 minutes after boarding was supposed to start, they announced that there are “maintenance issues,” that the flight will be delayed at least an hour and a half, and that they will tell us more information in an hour.

Maybe it is just my luck, but I had wanted to try Alaska to experience the service my friends in Portland rave about. Because my experience has been the opposite, I’m going to stick with United and American (where I already have status on both) for my domestic trips.

UPDATE: They delay ultimately got us to the ground 2 hours late in SFO. Those on the flight with connections were told upon landing in SF that they would need to be rebooked for the morning and given a hotel room for the night. It was apparently caused by a flat tire. This morning, Alaska sent me a $75 voucher to use on a future flight, even though I was specifically told I would not be receiving a voucher from a gate agent.

Alaska Airlines announces 6 new San Diego routes

Last week, Alaska/Virgin America announced 13 new Bay Area routes. In its quest to expand its California presence, this week Alaska Airlines announced 6 new non-stop San Diego routes:

  • Albuquerque, New Mexico
  • Austin, Texas
  • Kansas City, Missouri
  • Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota
  • Omaha, Nebraska
  • St. Louis. Missouri

Alaska Airlines will also offer daily service between San Diego and Mexico City, Mexico in the coming months, pending government approval.

Alaska San Diego

As a West Coaster who so far (mostly) loves Alaska and Virgin America, I am excited about these new routes, and hope there are more announcements to come soon!

Alaska/Virgin America announces 13 new Bay Area routes

I’m a huge fan of the Alaska/Virgin America merger. They are both excellent airlines, with some of the mileage redemption programs in the U.S.

So, I was especially thrilled when I saw that Virgin America were introduced 13 new Bay Area routes.

Routes

Having lived in Tucson and Philadelphia before, I am most excited for these routes (although I rarely travel from the San Jose airport, so may still take direct flights there from SFO on United or American).  I also plan to take advantage of the direct Mexico City route, and perhaps Kona and New Orleans.

I’m excited for these new routes and am considering whether I should go for status on Alaska this year.

The curious case of the missing Alaska Airlines miles

Despite having status on United and American, I made the decision to fly Delta from SFO to LAX at the end of January.

With Alaska’s merger with Virgin America, I am considering going for status on the airline this year. My thought is to use Alaska/Virgin for domestic travel and United/Star Alliance for international travel (the latter is largely due to preferred routes rather than strong, favorable feelings towards United). Delta and Alaska are currently partners, though their partnership is ending in May 2017, so I wanted to take advantage of flying Delta and crediting the miles to Alaska while I could.

That said, based on my current experience with Alaska, I am questioning this decision.

Despite flying on January 27th and January 29th, my miles from my Delta flight have still not been credited to my Alaska account. This is after 2 calls to Alaska, 1 to Delta, and 2 e-mails sent to Alaska over the last week alerting them of the issue.

On both of my boarding passes for Delta, it had my Alaska Mileage Plan number and when I booked the flight through Delta, and before I flew on both flights, I called Delta to ensure the miles would be credited to Alaska, just to avoid this happening.

This may be an issue with Delta as much as it is with Alaska, but since the flights were almost 2 weeks ago, I’m disappointed that Alaska hasn’t done more about this.

Instead of going for status on Alaska, this experience is making me consider going for Gold status on United this year.

If you have any tips for getting great customer service from Alaska Airlines, let me know!