Virgin America recently began a nonstop flight service between Orlando International Airport (MCO) and Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and for Disney and theme park fans, they have set the standard for comfort and entertainment while traveling between the world’s most popular tourist destinations.
Last week I had the chance to experience the new Virgin America flights, leaving Orlando at 7:00 pm on Oct. 22 and returning from Los Angeles at 8:00 am on Oct. 25. In the interest of full disclosure, Virgin America did provide my round-trip ticket for free to allow me to review the service. But free ticket or not, I can honestly report that the roundtrip flight I took was the most enjoyable 10 hours I’ve ever spent in the air.
The pleasant experience began long before I even stepped foot into the airport, with Virgin America’s website making it easy for me to review my flight information, select my seats, and check-in. Printing boarding passes was only a couple of clicks away. Those not able to print passes before arriving at the airport (as I wasn’t on the return trip home) will find ease in using the computer terminals located at Virgin America’s well-decorated and inviting check-in area.
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Upon boarding a Virgin America plane, it is instantly clear that this is a different sort of flight experience. Purple and pink lighting accents the walls while soft electronic music plays throughout the cabin. For Disney fans, it’s a bit like a walk through Tomorrowland.
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Standard class seats are black, sleek, and comfortable, with enough legroom to move around and breathe.
Each seat aboard a Virgin America flight is guaranteed to be equipped with an in-flight entertainment system featuring free satellite TV, free video games, free music, chat services, a few pay-per-viewing TV and movie options, and even the ability to order drinks and food from the flight attendants at the push of a button – either on the touch screen or on the detachable remote control. Future additions to this system include e-mail checking and text messaging, though they were not yet available at the time of my flight.
Even the introductory videos are soothing aboard Virgin America, with a cartoon version of Virgin owner Richard Branson telling passengers all about the service.
Each seat also features a standard power outlet and when combined with Gogo Inflight WiFi service (for a small extra fee), it’s easy to conduct business (or stay entertained) when on the go. With the fold-down tray table and my laptop, I was able to be in touch with the world throughout my flights, never feeling like I had even left my office. I stayed on top of business while in the air and landed without having to worry about “catching up” upon reaching my hotel or back home. All in all, I no longer have to worry about bringing DVDs, CDs, MP3s, portable video games, or any other form of entertainment aboard a long flight to Los Angeles from my home in Orlando. Virgin America will provide all the entertainment I need to enjoy the trip.
Throughout the flights, I never once found myself squirming or looking at the clock wondering when we would land. In fact, quite the opposite happened, as I was not ready to put away my laptop when the announcement was made to shut off all electronic devices.
A glimpse out the cabin windows makes it clear that while Virgin is a UK-based company, this is Virgin America, as evidenced from the American flag design on the tips of the wings. It’s a nice touch.
The only “complaint” I have about Virgin America’s new nonstop service between Orlando and Los Angeles is the available flight times. Like most other airlines, there is only one nonstop flight in each direction each day. The flight from Orlando to Los Angeles is at night and the flight from Los Angeles to Orlando is in the morning – which is backward from how I would prefer it to be. Passengers flying from Disneyland to Walt Disney World will have a great time hopping aboard the plane at 8:00 am PT and arriving in Orlando at around 3:30 pm ET, with half of a day left to explore. On the return, these travelers may enjoy the first half of the day before heading to the airport to catch the 7:00 pm flight back to Los Angeles. However, starting a trip with a nighttime flight means an ordinary day at home (or work) followed by a nighttime flight to LA with not much left to do for the night but get some dinner and head to a hotel. Then the trip back home also involves an extra hotel night’s stay just to be ready for the flight the next morning.
Fortunately, fares are extremely low for the new nonstop service between Orlando and Los Angeles. In monitoring the Virgin America website for the last few weeks, I’ve seen fares as low as $99 in each direction. As long as the flight is booked more than a week in advance, it’s possible to enjoy this incredibly entertaining and comfortable flight for around $200 round trip, which is a no-brainer for me. I am hereby retiring my Delta rewards program in favor of my airborne miles to come aboard Virgin America. If you’re like me and fly between the cities that are home to Walt Disney World and Disneyland (among many other world-class attractions), you won’t regret making the same decision.
More photos from Virgin America’s nonstop service between Orlando and Los Angeles: