Virgin America Review (Economy) San Francisco (SFO) to Honolulu (HNL)
For our flights to Papeete, we had redeemed miles from Honolulu on Hawaiian Airlines, so all we needed was a cheap one-way from San Francisco to Honolulu. Virgin America just started flights to Hawaii last year and I 'd had good experiences on shorter legs with Virgin America, so what could go wrong?
After a quick breakfast at the American Express Centurion Lounge at SFO (and after going through security twice) we made our way to the Virgin America gate. I have no status with the airline or its relevant affiliates, so I had to use patience instead.
Now Virgin has this great mood lighting, the crew is friendly and the whole marketing language is written by some gifted writers; all good mate? The A320 is the same version that Virgin America uses for other domestic flights and I was happy to secure two emergency exit rows for more legroom upfront (no extra charge!) We'd been warned online that the seats would not recline, but I never really recline my seat anyways, so I was not worried when booking.
While San Francisco had a bad storm that day, we took off before departure delays kicked in. Initially, the free WiFi and live TV both worked, so it was a great start to a Hawaii flight, especially as the WiFi is fast and a joy to use. However, about 15 minutes later, WiFi and live TV both shut down. Virgin America had said in an email before departure that this would happen and offering re-booking :)
The pilot came up and mentioned that we would be arriving late because of strong head winds. The flight would take 6.5 hours of flying time (!) and we slowed down to as little as 380mph due to those head winds. Yes, we were slooooow...
Unfortunately I didn't count on the fact that while the seat cushion looks nice and feels nice for short legs, for longer legs it's just awful, since it makes you lean forward. I usually sleep well on planes, but I found it impossible to sleep. You just can't rest yourself on the seat back.
Additionally, we had a group of passengers in the rows behind us who decided to talk audibly the entire (!) flight, loud enough that their voices carried themselves a few rows forwards and backwards. Combined with a row of fuzzy babies and noise from the wind on the fuselage, this was a really loud cabin! I felt very happy as we finally approached Honolulu in a big loop.
The movies are $8 apiece on Virgin America, which I feel is needlessly expensive.
I thought it would have been the best flight ever to Hawaii, but it turned out to be dreadful. Maybe I should just stick with United, which uses widebodies to and from Los Angeles; they are old, but also feature that cool United wireless entertainment system.