Virgin America Review

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Virgin America offers free amenities such as live TV and relatively large seats. The airline earns consumer and professional accolades, but limited flight routes keep it from being a top pick.

Virgin America is a relatively small airline with just over two dozen destinations, 60 aircraft, and two hubs in San Francisco and Los Angeles. However, it flies the routes often and has an average of 210 daily flights. The airline flies primarily to major U.S. cities, as well as Maui, Honolulu, and several destinations in Mexico.

Like JetBlue, Virgin America is a low-cost carrier that promises luxury. It has four lounges, power outlets by the seats, and free live Dish Network channels. Wi-Fi is available for a fee, as are additional TV options and movies. Passengers can also use the entertainment system to chat with other travelers and order themselves -- or someone else! -- a drink, meal, or snack.

With a 32-inch pitch and 17.7-inch width, Virgin America’s standard coach seats are relatively spacious compared with the other low-cost carriers. There are also more expensive Main Cabin Select and first-class seats available, which come with additional space and perks.

There are a few potential fees when flying with Virgin America. The first checked bag costs $25, but up to 10 bags can be checked at the same price (most other airlines up the price starting with the second bag). The cost to make ticket changes is $100 to $150 depending on the route -- relatively high compared to the other budget airlines. The fee is waived for passengers who pay an additional $25 upfront for a Plans Change Pass.

Virgin America wins big in industry studies, expert comparisons, and traveler reviews. It was named the best domestic airline by Travel & Leisure readers and also placed first in the annual Airline Quality Rating study. According to the Department of Transportation, Virgin America had the lowest number of baggage-related complaints for the first quarter of 2016 among all the airlines assessed. And more than 250 Virgin America reviews on AirlineQuality.com give the airline an overall rating of 7 out of 10, the highest score earned by any of the low-cost carriers we compared.

With its many amenities, large seats, and positive customer feedback, Virgin America would be among our top picks. However, it misses the cut due to the limited number of destinations served. A merger planned with Alaska Airlines, which bought Virgin America in April 2016 (pending approval by the Justice Department), is projected to dramatically increase flight options.

Louis DeNicola

Louis DeNicola is a freelance personal finance writer who specializes in credit, debt, and practical money-saving tips. He loves stacking savings opportunities to get amazing deals, traveling for free using credit card rewards, and teaching others how to do the same. Connect with Louis by visiting louisdenicola.com.

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