JetBlue vs Virgin America: Long Haul Edition (Trip Report)

I told you that you wouldn’t have to wait long for the long haul version of my JetBlue and Virgin America head-to-head comparison trip report, didn’t I? (Read the short haul version here.) A mere 4 days after getting back home from Vegas, I was on the road again. This time it was for a good friend’s wedding all the way in Boston. The result? Both airlines did well, but I think I still like JetBlue better. Correction: I’ll like JetBlue better once they get their wifi act together and have it installed fleetwide.

Though I naturally would have loved to fly from Long Beach on this trip, it wasn’t in the cards. JetBlue has only a single redeye heading east and an evening return. That didn’t fit my plans. So, to LAX it was. I wanted the earliest flight out and JetBlue fit the bill with a 7a flight costing $178.10. Then for the return, Virgin America had the late morning departure I wanted at 1115a for $163.10.

That 7a departure from LAX was going to come early, but fortunately since it was Saturday I didn’t have to worry about traffic. I woke up at 5a and got in my car within 20 minutes. Soon I was parking as usual at Quikpark and then I was on the bus. Even at this off-peak hour, LAX had a lot of traffic on its mangled roadways. There is so much construction right now, it’s worse than usual. But hey, at least they have fancy light posts lining the roadway now.

I made it to Terminal 3 and sighed that I had to be back there so soon. That terminal is terrible. The security lines were messy, and I think Pre Check was the longest one. Still, it moved relatively quickly and I was through with time to kill.

I parked myself at the gate and watched the 625a Spirit departure to Vegas push back. Full of Pacquiao and Mayweather fans, no doubt. (And probably the only time that flight has people on it.)

At LAX, JetBlue boards by row number, and I was one of the last to get onboard being in row 9.

We were on one of JetBlue’s oldest aircraft. This guy has been around for about 15 years now, and he’s still soldiering on. The flight wasn’t full (lots of empty seats in the extra legroom seats), but my row was. I figured I’d just plug my headphones in and watch TV, but it wasn’t working. Uh oh.

The flight attendants announced that this aircraft was equipped with FlyFi, JetBlue’s wifi, and then stopped mid-sentence. Oops. This was one of the 20 percent of A320s left in the fleet without it. Double uh oh. (Side note: Might be nice if they could schedule the A320s without wifi on flights that aren’t the longest ones in the system.) I was really looking forward to giving the wifi a work out, but that wasn’t to be. I hadn’t prepared for 5 hours without TV or internet, so I tried to figure out how to pass the time.

We pushed back and were airborne into the still morning sky in no time. The pilots turned us around and pointed toward the opposite side of the country.

TV still didn’t work right away, but that long intro video with ads was back, unlike last week. I guess they just don’t show it on really short flights. Fortunately by the time we reached 10,000 feet, TV was back on again. Whew. Now I didn’t have to worry about desperately searching for some game pre-loaded on my phone to help me avoid boredom.

The flight attendants came through with drinks, snacks, and food for sale. I just had water and PopCorners. I was planning to sit back and relax and watch a movie. (This one is easy to identify…)

I remember JetBlue as being the one airline that had a little switch on the seats in front of the exit rows that would allow them to recline in the air. I tried but couldn’t recline. So I asked one of the very friendly crewmembers about that. The flight attendant told me that those switches were long gone. Anyone know when that happened? Those were a great idea.

So, no reclining for me (on an airline with this much legroom, I do like to go back just a bit). It was a smooth morning to fly until we hit a few bumps over the Plains. The seatbelt sign went on, and then I’m guessing the pilots forgot to turn it off. The ride quickly smoothed out, but the sign didn’t come off again until we were abeam Chicago.

A cocktail of Comedy Central, ESPN NFL Draft coverage, and the (still very poor) live map kept me busy for much of the flight. Oh, and looking out the window of course. I was lucky to see a C-17 cruise by a few thousand feet below us at one point. That was awesome.

The girl in the middle seat must have had a rough night because she spent most of the flight with her head on a pillow on top of her tray. As we headed over the Great Lakes, I was getting really thirsty and hadn’t seen a flight attendant in awhile. I didn’t want to wake this girl up, so I did the unthinkable; I rang the call button. A friendly flight attendant came and had water in her apron, so she handed it over and I was happy. Nice job.

Sleeping beauty finally woke up somewhere near New York, so I took that opportunity to go to the lav. The flight attendants had set up a mini-bar there with bottles of water and snacks on a little tray. I made sure to grab some on my way back. We began descending over Eastern New York and had a fantastic view all the way into Boston.

Once on the ground, I wanted to use Uber, but I didn’t know if they were allowed to pick up in Boston. So I asked one of the JetBlue agents at the customer assistance counter, and she looked at me like I was crazy. “Yeah, they can pick up everywhere.” I told her that where I lived in LA, they weren’t allowed to pick up at the airport so I just wanted to make sure. She simply responded. “LA sucks.” *sigh* Welcome to Boston.

I had a great time at the wedding and the weather was fantastic, but after two short nights, it was time to go home.

I thought about trying for an earlier flight home since Virgin had one at 9a and I could standby for free, but I had successfully kept myself on Pacific Time for this entire trip and figured it wasn’t worth changing that now. So I slept in late and took Uber over to the airport.

I haven’t been to Logan a lot, but once I arrived at Virgin America’s spot in Terminal B, I had flashbacks. Virgin America uses what I can only assume are the two worst gates in the entire airport, B37 and B38. Those were the home of America West Airlines when I worked there.

I grabbed my boarding pass and then went into the security line. These gates are completely isolated from the rest of the airport so they have their own dedicated security line. And that means no Pre Check. There were many of us with Pre Check on our boarding passes, and the agent could only apologize, telling us that we could leave our shoes on but we still had to pull out liquids and laptops.

The line moved very slowly, but I had plenty of time. Once through, I found a seat. There is very little going on in this area. Other than a food cart, there are just a couple of small bathrooms. It was tight in there.

Our airplane was there already, and boarding began on time. I had group E so I was one of the last onboard.

The flight seemed mostly full, and when I took my seat, someone was already in the middle. (I’m not quite sure how Virgin’s boarding groups work.) I sat down and flipped the TV on.

The captain came on and said that it would be a fairly smooth flight across the US today. (That wasn’t true.) Even better, when they closed the door, our aisle seat was empty. My seatmate moved over and we basked in the glory of an empty middle.

Once we finished with that oh-so-infectious safety video, I flipped through the channels looking for anything to watch. We taxied around Boston for a bit before heading into the beautiful day. We circled around and I had a great view of Boston on the way out. You’re welcome, Boston, for me bringing our weather to you this weekend.

The bounces began early and the seatbelt sign went on. I felt the beginnings of a cold coming on, and really didn’t feel great, but I knew I had to get some work done. Once the internet starting working, I logged on.

Gogo was charging an incredible $40 for this flight. Fortunately, I had a freebie I could use. If any flight was worth it, this would be it. And Virgin America’s legroom actually made it easy to work on the computer without needing T-Rex arms.

I ordered some water through the entertainment system, and that’s really all I wanted. The flight attendants came by with a cart working the aisle and brought a couple waters to me as they passed. That food-ordering system is great, but you can tell that the flight attendants don’t feel the need to come through the cabin as much because of that.

Internet and TV kept me entertained most of the time. I actually like JetBlue’s TV system better because it changes channels faster and has far more channels.

The seatbelt sign probably stayed on for about half the trip. There was a lot of weather in the middle of the country, it seems

As I got closer to the end of the flight, my computer ran out of juice and the power outlet didn’t work so I closed up shop and stared out the window. Here’s the power outlet and, as requested, my footwear.

We finally started descending into LAX and there were a few thunderheads scattered around. We obviously steered clear but it made for a nice view.

I was really happy to finally be on the ground but we again landed on the south side and had to taxi around.

We pulled up to the gate and I couldn’t wait to get off. But I couldn’t. The jet bridge broke so we had to sit there for a few minutes, waiting to see what would happen.

It didn’t take long before someone was able to fix the bridge (you suck, Terminal 3), and we were finally off.

So who wins? Honestly both did a good job. I still like JetBlue better in general, but I wouldn’t turn down a flight on either of these guys.

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Muscat,  Oman
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