In part 2 of the series, we examined the strengths and weaknesses of the Virgin America’s pre-flight experience. We will continue the series by looking into the At the Airport experience for the airline.
At The Airport
Once a passenger has a confirmed ticket, their travel experience continues at the airport. Virgin America’s hub is in San Francisco (SFO) with focus cities in Dallas (DAL) and New York (LGA). We will focus the analysis on its operation in its hub where the experience would be at its best.
Virgin America operates 6 gates out of terminal 2 of the San Francisco International Airport. Arrivals from Mexico uses the international terminal for customs and immigration processing.
Virgin America’s website has easy to find airport information for each of the 20 destinations it serves. Passengers can check in online via the website or through check-in kiosks or agents at the airport. There are dedicated check in counters for both Elevate Silver, Gold and First class passengers. These passengers also enjoy priority baggage handling and security lines.
Flight status alerts can be set up online to report delays greater than 30 minutes.
For a technology savvy company, Virgin America does not have an mobile application available on any platform (iOS, Android, Windows) for check in and flight status information.
Although passengers can add the boarding pass into Apple’s Passbook application after checking in online using the mobile version of the website, it was not documented.
Virgin America has lounges for passengers to use in four cities (LAX, SFO, JFK and IAD) (Refer to this list).
The Loft created by Virgin America is spacious and has all the expected amenities including ample sitting areas, food service and free wifi access. It is located close to Virgin America’s gates and is very modern looking.
Here is an infographic and a short video introducing the Loft:
- Only 20% of the destinations served by Virgin America have access to lounges
- Only First Class passengers flying long-haul such as EWR, BOS, IAD and JFK have access to the Loft for free. Regardless of class, all passengers would have to pay for day passes to access Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse Lounges in SFO, IAD and JFK
- Virgin America does not have a dedicated lounge operated in Terminal 2 at SFO. All passengers who want lounge access would have to travel to the international terminal which would add travel time
Virgin America employs a 2 step boarding process. Priority boarding is given to First Class and Elevate Silver/Gold passengers followed by Main Cabin Select and Main Cabin passengers. Signs are very clear and the boarding area is often created with a modern touch.
The gate screens do not always have additional information such as weather, destination details, standby or upgrade lists which is standard for many US airlines currently and are useful for passengers.
Virgin America creates a modern fun atmosphere for its passengers. It matches other airlines on amenities offered (such as priority boarding, security and lounge access) to its elite status and first class passengers. The Loft in Los Angeles is beautiful but access can be challenging and costly. With additional expansion to business traveller heavy Dallas Love Field Airport (DAL) and New York-LaGuardia International Airport (LGA), Virgin America should consider investing more capital to build more branded lounges.