Flight Experience

This past week I took 5 flights in 5 days. I hate flying but it had to be done so I figured it would be a good chance to check out airlines and decide which I liked best. After all, I was flying three different airlines.

The first flight was uneventful. From Oakland to Ontario airport (LA) on Southwest. I had A28 to board, but it did me nothing because I was in conversation with someone at the bar while drinking a bloody mary and was not worried about what seat I would get. Anyway, very uneventful.

The next morning I flew Southwest again from Ontario back to Oakland. 7:45 a.m. flight that I wasn't looking forward to as I was tired and hungover from the wedding I attended the night before. That flight made my morning - and my day.

Living in the East Bay Area, I've attended many Raiders game and thought I had experienced Raider Nation but realized the moment I boarded this flight, I really hadn't. I didn't realize there were so many Raiders fans that lived in LA that flew up to Oakland every Sunday morning for home games! Everyone dressed in black and silver and opening beers at 8 in the morning should have made it enjoyable flight to begin with but it was really the flight attendants and pilots that did. They were so happy, cracking jokes, and really upbeat for so early in the morning. You could tell they liked their job. And even though it was only an hour flight they make sure to give you as many snacks and drinks as you would like. I think one of the flight attendants should have been a stand up comedian.

I landed in Oakland still laughing as hard as I had the past hour in the air. Happy and ready for my day to start, I walk over to the gate for my next flight, on Jet Blue. Talk about a contrast.

I used to be a big supporter of Jet Blue. The flight attendants always seemed so happy, and the airline always seemed like a better alternative than Southwest - just because they had everything Southwest had plus individual t.v.'s and sometimes cheaper rates. I walked up to the gate to check in only to stand there for about 5 minutes while the lady behind the counter just chatted it up with another employee. Finally the attendant decided to greet me - but definitely made me feel like I was being an inconvienence for checking in. I understand everything is electronic now and perhaps they don't get many people at the gate checking in these days but I wasn't about to walk out of the terminal to check in and go back through security!

anyway, I check in still bubbly from the happy flight before and get some breakfast. I board the plane to NYC that is going through Long Beach. The flight attendants give their speech and I'm of course tuning them out. After we take off they get back on the speaker, when all I'm trying to do is watch football on t.v. But I listen as they give their whole upsell speech on getting a Jet Blue American Express - thanks but no thanks. They then go on to tell us all the things they have to sell - blanket and pillow for $7, headsets for $1, etc... am I being forced to listen to an infomercial?!?

But then they go even one step further by walking up and down the aisles asking everyone if they want this stupid overpriced blanket/pillow set. Talk about interferring with the customer experience! The flight attendants then walk up and down, offering drinks and snacks, except unlike Southwest, when I ask for the chips AND biscotti, I get an evil glare by the flight attendant as if to say "how dare you ask for two things?" Southwest would give me the whole box if I wanted (a bit of exaggeration but you get the point). All the flight attendants on this flight were rude, unhappy and complete opposite of Southwest. If I was considering to apply at either Southwest or Jet Blue, Southwest would win because by this point all of the Jet Blue employees seem to seriously hate their job - from the lady at the gate to everyone on the plane.

Thankfully this flight is only an hour, and we land at Long Beach and I walk over to a different gate to change planes to go on to New York. Unfortuantely, I get to listen to the whole informercial yet again as the flight takes off to New York. To make matters worse, they turned off the t.v.'s just as Green Bay went into overtime. Obviously they are just doing their job and don't watch football and realize that the game has just gone into over time and Titans are making a drive. But no, I will patiently sit here and listen to the announcer tell me how much I want the American Express card and blanket/pillow set and headphones...

they finish and I quickly try to get the t.v. to work, but it won't. and once it comes back on, the game is over (Titans won). ok fine, I'll find something else to watch. However, just like the previous Jet Blue flight, half the channels don't work and the t.v. keeps losing signal. It's very frustrating to try to watch t.v. when the screen keeps going blue. Thankfully they have to reset the t.v.'s which makes the movies that normally cost $5 free, so I watch two movies and don't have to worry abou the t.v. channels. Just like the first flight, these attendants don't seem to care for their job and are not very happy. Except for one nice lady attendant who gave me a free Mascara while waiting the bathroom. She said it was some promotion. I'll happily take it, but think to myself that I wouldn't be surprise if they start selling these Great Lash mascaras on my next flight - right along side the blanket/pillow set.

A couple of days later I am flying home from New York City to San Francisco and board a Virgin America flight. I've never flown them before and have always wanted to try them out since an English friend of mine talked so highly about Virign - and while this isn't Virgin exactly, it is a sister company. I get on the plane and the lights are all dimmed and blue. It made me feel like I was in a night club. Interesting I think to myself. I can't find a place for my bag and look up and down the aisle and can't seem to find a flight attendant. Turns out the guy standing in all black that I thought was a passenger was actually a flight attendant. I ask for his help, and he moves some stuff around to get me a spot right above my head! Awesome!

Virgin America doesn't have a person come on and talk. They show a funny cartoon. Nice touch to tell the outdated FAA regulations (they really need to reconsider them!). The girl next to me orders a movie before we have even left the runway and I was shocked - but impressed that for once you didn't have to wait until like 15 min in the air. As soon as we take off, I start messing around with my t.v. Food, movies, music, t.v., games, and soon to be wi-fi - I could have played with it all the entire flight. The food and drink selection alone are so robust! and the movies are not just three movies to choose from but a really long list of recent movies and t.v. shows. Of course all the movies cost money but I love the selection. To order all you need to do is punch it in on your screen, swip your card and within a minute, the flight attendant has brough it to you. I'm in love. My co-worker orders good champagne and a fruit and cheese plate that looked delicious! I got a couple glasses of red wine and was surprised to see it was Wente (a local Livermore wine). The seats are remarkably comfortable with cushioned headrests. The t.v. never went out as it did on Jet Blue, and I had all the channels (unlike Jet Blue) but I still watched a movie and took a little nap, I was so comfortable. I woke up and created a playlist of music to listen to. They have a wide selection of musicians and you can select songs and create your own. Much better than just listening to a radio station! Overall, Virgin America was very pleasurable and the way they are not interferring with my flight experience, actually benefited them - they got $24 from me during the flight. Jet Blue got $0.

All in all, for having very similar prices, Virgin America and Southwest have taken over as favorites for this girl who used to be such a cheerleader for Jet Blue. I'm not sure what's going on with Jet Blue, but their employees seem miserable and they seem to care way too much on making an extra dollar out of their fliers, instead of giving a great customer experience. The only thing that would make Southwest the definite clear leader, would be individual t.v.'s because that makes the entire flight for anything more than an hour. Virgin America doesn't fly enough places to be my only airline but once they start flying to Chicago (early next year) it will probably be my number one choice almost all the time. And when I can't fly them, then I will fly Southwest.

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