Thursday, September 9, 2010

Is the Virgin America Upgrade to Main Cabin Select Worth It?

I think it definitely was for us, even though it added an extra $440 to our plane tickets. It costs $110 as an upgrade starting at 24 hours before the flight.

I have only been on an airplane a handful of times in my life, and it is generally not an experience that I enjoy. When I logged on to Virgin America's site to check-in, I noticed that there was an icon to change our seats. When we booked our flight, I agonized over the seat choices. I like the window, but I hate being boxed into a seat by a stranger, so eventually we decided on aisle and middle. By the time we were checking in, I was regretting that decision.

I saw that they had an upgrade available to Main Cabin Select, which is available in the bulkhead row as well as the exit row. I could get a window seat, and have some extra room. It would be free to check our bag, and we could order whatever we wanted and it was already covered. We also got priority treatment, and were able to board the plane first along with first class.

We decided to jump on it, with the following rationale: Our tickets were already hundreds of dollars less than those on other airlines. Even with the upgrade, we are still coming out ahead. I am so glad that we upgraded our seats. I can honestly say that this was the best flight that I have ever had. Boarding the plane early, and not having to squeeze past people was such a luxury. We were at our seats early, and as an added bonus, the aisle seat was not taken, so I didn't feel trapped.

I wanted to keep track of the perks that I was getting, to try to figure out if it would be worth it on the way home. First, we got to check our bag for free instead of $25. We ordered food on the plane (you have to pay for everything except soft drinks, juice, coffee, tea, and water). It's funny, because if we had to pay for these items a la carte, we would have spent our trip starving. Instead, since it was already covered, we tried to make it worth it

Here's what we ordered:

Food and drinks
  • Iced Tea $3x2 = $6
  • Chocolate Chip Cookies $3x2 = $6
  • Pastrami sandwich = $10
  • Grilled Japanese eggplant sandwich = $9
  • Another Iced Tea later in the flight= $3
  • Mixed nuts = $3
Entertainment
  • Date Night - $8
Total Value - $67

Added to the fact that:
  1. we had express check in.
  2. we boarded first.
  3. we had way more leg room.
  4. our luggage came out among the first.
I freaked out when I checked in for our return flight, because the option wasn't available. I entertained the notion of switching to first class, and even woke up at 3:30 in the morning (six hours ahead of time) to try to get that upgrade. That would have added A LOT more to our total, so I guess I should be glad that it wasn't available.

I was cranky as we got to the airport, since our seats were actually pretty awful: in front of the exit row, so they didn't recline, but not with the perk of extra legroom. When we were waiting to board, I saw a notice that there were upgrades available, and luckily I was able to upgrade our seats at the gate. Virgin America promptly refunded the $25 that I had already paid to check our bag, and we proceeded to order lots of food and movies on the return flight as well.

The upgrade was totally worth it for us, and I thought it was a good compromise between being squished in coach, and splurging for first class.

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