April 23

The World According to Virgin

I am writing this aboard a Virgin Airlines flight from Chicago to San Francisco where I am headed for business. I first flew Virgin from Tokyo to London in 1989 when it was the cool new airlines. It was a fun and memorable flight. Typically their fares are too high, however, and they have very flights out of Chicago where I live. As a result I haven’t had the opportunity to fly Virgin recently. However a sale brought Virgin’s fare in line with the fares of the other airlines so I jumped at the chance. Guessing that many of you might not have had the chance to experience a Virgin flight I feel as though I should share what it’s like in the alternate hipster universe that is Virgin.

One you begin booking your flight on the flawlessly designed Virgin website, you’ll need to choose a cute cartoon creature as your avatar when selecting your seat. If you’re like me this will result in an identity crisis. Later you’ll get emails reminding you of your impending flight and letting you know that there will be wifi on every Virgin flight as well as the opportunity to offset your carbon footprint from the flight or donate to your favorite charity while onboard. Virgin will remind you that they fly shelter Chihuahuas from LA to New York because presumably there’s a Chihuahua shortage in Manhattan.

While you’re waiting for your flight, the well-groomed Virgin staff in their (I’m just guessing here) Armani-designed uniforms will greet you casually as if they’re handling your ticket for Lollapalooza or offering to get you a shot of whiskey at a bar. “Hey, (pause for sincerity) how ya doin’ today?”

Once you get to the gate you’ll get to see all of the other cooler, hipper Virgin passengers who will be on your flight. I’m pretty certain that as someone who bought her ticket at the sale price that I was the only one, including that 7-month-old baby, whose company has yet to find the right venture capitalist or launch an IPO. Those may be torn jeans on that 25-yr-old with the hoodie frantically texting someone, but they are $400 torn jeans sewn with organic cotton for sure. Then a tall and handsome, young man, with the perfect percentage of body fat and a head of long wavy hair any man or woman would envy, will invite you to board with smooth alliterations such as “Hey, all you Bodacious Babes in Group B! You are welcome to board.” Sadly I was part of the “Dudes and Dudettes” in Group D which we were told might mean there wouldn’t be much room in the overhead bins. The Bodacious Babes always get the overhead bins. The only buzzkill comes when Fabio tells one of the passengers carrying a half-empty beer, “Hey man. You can’t take that on board so feel free to step aside and finish it here before you board.” Cue beer chugging.

As you board the plane, you’ll notice the purple shadow mood lighting along the cabin that reminds me of the underseat lighting concepts you see in pimped out rides sporting spinning rims and playing boom-boom music. But it’s not until they announce that it’s time to watch the safety video that you get to see the full Virgin experience.

All of that information about seatbelts, locations of exits, no smoking and all of that is presented in MTV music video format with highly choreographed dancing flight attendants, hipster kids rapping about how you need to stow your laptops and can’t Smoke. In. The. Plane. There are rappers describing and gesturing how the oxygen masks will “fall DOWN!” in the event of an emergency and trios of Beyonce-like singers reminding you that the nearest exit might be behind you. At the end of this over-the-top video the smooth-talking pilot, who probably does voiceovers for Ambien on his off days, tells you that “We’ve got that #2 position so sit tight for a few.” Later he decides it’s important to tell us in the most reassuring way that we’re in the air and we need to relaaaaax. “And if you’re hungry you can order some snacks from the screen in the back of the seats.” The movies on demand from the same screen include the international documentaries that movie stars find hard to pronounce at the Oscars.

Presumably my bags will be at the baggage carousel when the flight lands, but if they aren’t I hope there will be a killer lost baggage video with choreographed moves and a sick beat. I’m guessing there will be dancers who resemble Snoop Dogg wearing sunglasses with their overly baggy baggage-handler uniforms, an abundant supply of fog machines and lots of flashing signal lights.