PSFK Report: Virgin’s Inaugural Flight – LAX to SFO

PSFK Report: Virgin’s Inaugural Flight – LAX to SFO
Poorna Jagannathan
  • 15 august 2007

How do I explain the insides of our plane named “California Dreaming?”

It was like being eaten by an iPhone and sitting in its belly for an hour. I was there because PSFK had been invited onto Virgin America’s inaugural flight from Los Angeles to San Francisco. The whole wiring of the plane is designed for interaction. but first let me talk about the gorgeous design.

  • The seats were extraordinarily comfy and cool. Racecar seat company Recaro had a hand in making these so plush, you sit in them and get that warm, fuzzy “I’m the fucking CEO feeling.”
  • The stewards, stewardesses and pilots were just plain hot and so lovely. They looked like they were outfitted by Armani and our pilot told me he relished trading in his stuffy hat and tie for the more causal, personal look Virgin is going for.
  • The lighting in the cabin is designed to sync with the “phase” of day you’re traveling through. So lighting phases change throughout the flight to bring you, for example, gently out of your sleep and transition you to awake. Anyway- thank God for the lack of florescent lights.
  • Even the boring safety instruction manual read like a mini-handbook on fashion. The animated figures looked grungy, cool and hip and I swear I saw a bit of crack as the girl with low jeans was trying to get out of the emergency exit and onto the raft.
  • There’s a place called the “mini-bar” at the rear of the plane currently loaded with water bottles, but will probably showcase products and gadgets.

Now, for the wiring. And by the way, one of their aircrafts is called “My other ride is a spaceship”.

  • If you’re a traveler like myself or Piers, then you’re probably constantly either running out of juice, or completely out. Thank god then for the two 110-volt power outlets for the three seats, USB connectors for charging iPods and Razrs and two WiFi access points on board.
  • The in-flight entertainment menu is awesome. It’s easy to use and has that clean, dare we say, Apple feel to it.
  • There’s Satellite TV supplied by dish network and live TV.
  • Over 25 pay-per-view movies available on demand, although it does cost $8 which seemed a little hefty.
  • A large selection of games, including Doom — although my traveling partner Dylan Tweaney from Wired was bummed that they were older versions. But I hear they’re planning an open source game design competition and winning games will be added to the repertoire. Also, they are trying to go from single-player to multi-player games. I anticipate a problem getting people off the flights.
  • You can create your own playlist from their selection of over 3,000 MP3s. And the kicker is, that when you fly them next time, your selection is remembered and brought up on screen again.
  • The seat-to-seat chat created the most buzz. With a full QWERTY keyboard, trying out the chat technology was a riot. This could be the next avatar of online dating, but just remember to get the seat numbers right, or else you’ll end up with someone’s granny. By the way, there’s a group chat around each TV channel (while you watch TV), and you can join topic-based chat rooms.
  • In-flight text messaging and email aren’t active yet but on their way. Although fully wired and ready to go, connectivity via Ethernet and in-cabin Wi-Fi won’t happen till next year.
  • You can order your food online and you swipe your credit card through, so there isn’t an exchange of cash between you and the steward, making for a stress-free environment.

Our landing was synced with the NY Virgin flight, Air Colbert, and were greeted with a tradition I’d never heard of – firefighters hosing our plane down. On ground, the mayor of San Francisco Gavin Newsom proclaimed it Virgin America day promised to paint the town red. Literally. Apparently there will be some buildings turning red very soon. The whole thing was awesome and the freebie of a Jawbone generously given to everyone by the dashing Hosain Rahman made the trip even sweeter.

For more photos, check out Johnny Vulkan’s Flickr collection.

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