Virgin America’s Main Cabin Select is one of the better perks of being an Alaska Airlines elite based in Dallas. Since Alaska now owns Virgin, there is reciprocity between the two airlines as far as elite benefits, and complimentary Main Cabin Select upgrades are one of them. You get more legroom and complimentary food and beverages (including alcoholic) if you are upgraded.
I was traveling to San Francisco for a wedding, and I had booked my Virgin America flights from DAL to SFO several months in advance. Given that I was an Alaska Airlines MVP Gold at the time, I was able to select a seat in row 5F, which is ordinarily reserved for Alaska Airlines MileagePlan MVP or Virgin America Elevate Silver tier members and above, although Virgin America’s Elevate Program ended on December 31 last year.
The day before my flight, I received a notification from Virgin that I had been upgraded to Main Cabin Select. While window seats were not available, I was able to score 3D, which worked perfectly fine for me.
It is important to note that Virgin America and Alaska both serve Dallas Love Field airport, but only Alaska Airlines serves Dallas/Ft. Worth airport.
There are no airline lounges at Dallas Love Field, although I think that Alaska may eventually want to consider adding a boardroom here at some point in the future if they want to be successful at DAL. The airport can feel a little crowded at peak departure times (late afternoon is one of them) but thankfully, there is complimentary Wi-Fi. Virgin America gates also tend to have a lot more space and room to spread out at Dallas Love than some of the other gate areas, which is nice.
I was worried that this flight would be delayed, as there were some storms on the East Coast, but thankfully, everything was moving on-time. First class passengers boarded followed by Virgin America Elevate and Alaska elites, and then after that, Main Cabin Select.
The main cabin select seats come with six extra inches of legroom. There is an awkward seat pouch that extends along the entire row, so presumably, you could store some of your smaller items like headsets, a tablet, even a laptop in that section, but it honestly looks a bit precarious.
The legroom factor itself is fantastic, but the tray table is not. You basically have an awkward setup with your laptop because the tray table only extends out a few inches in front of the seat. This makes it very uncomfortable to get work done as you have to sit all the way forward in order to access your keyboard. This defeats the purpose of having extra legroom, much less a comfortable seat because you are basically in the forward position the entire time. This is a pretty flagrant design flaw, in my opinion.
After take-off, the flight leveled out while the cabin crew began the beverage service. Virgin America does complimentary drinks run for the entire cabin, offering coffee, juices, tea, sodas, and water with no extra charge. There is a plethora of various snacks and alcoholic beverages for sale, which can all be ordered using the touchpad on the Red screen.
Virgin America is up there with Spirit in terms of in-flight sales: I have never seen a cabin crew work as hard as these individuals have when it comes to fulfilling orders and requests. This must be really good exercise for these individuals, and despite the constant back-and-forth, they always seem to have a smile on their face when they pass by.
All entertainment on Virgin America is free, including movies, television, and radio, whereas prior to the Alaska acquisition of Virgin, there were charges for certain films and features.
I started off with ordering a protein plate, which ordinarily sells for about $10.00. It contains a hardboiled cage-free egg, herb roasted chicken, grape tomatoes, feta cheese, grapes, dried dates, almonds, baby carrots, and cucumber sticks. It was also served with mini pitas and muhammara dip made from roasted red peppers, walnuts, and pomegranate molasses
I would say that the menu description was missing a few of the elements in reality, as the hummus dip definitely did not contain muhammara and I also did not find any almonds, but that was okay. I thought this was a really healthy dish and it satisfied my hunger.
I also ordered a glass of prosecco, which I combined with orange juice to make mimosa.
I was able to connect to Virgin America’s WiFi through iPass, which was a great perk to have for the one month before it got pulled.
Later on in the flight, I started feeling hungry again (a DAL-SFO flight is almost 4 hours in length) and ordered a veggie wrap, which came with chickpeas.
The rest of the flight passed uneventfully. The middle seat next to me was thankfully unoccupied, and it was a smooth ride all the way to SFO. During the initial descent, we had great views of the Silicon Valley area.
We landed in a slightly foggy SFO, and parked at Terminal 3 without having to wait for a gate to open up. I had a few into the United SFO Maintenance Bay, where I’d come back to visit the following week for Family Day to say farewell to the 747.
The return trip from SFO to DAL was a bit more interesting at the beginning, as my window seat assignment had been relinquished due to a “system error.” I was subsequently re-assigned a middle seat, but the gate agent at SFO was apologetic about this and gave me a $100 voucher for the inconvenience.
The Virgin America Main Cabin Select experience is pretty on-par with the First Class experience on Alaska Airlines, with the exception of the hot meal service, the width of the seat, and the tray table issue with laptops. Aside from everything else, I really think the product is fantastic and I will really miss it when it disappears. I am hoping to eventually get to try out Alaska’s new premium economy class to see how it compares to Main Cabin Select.
I also hope I get a chance to fly on Virgin America’s domestic first class again, which I did five years ago and it remains one of the best in-flight experiences I’ve ever had.