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United versus Virgin: Grizzly Veteran Flies New Airline

December 3, 2014

As a 100k flyer for over a decade with 1,589,963 United miles under my belt, I know a bit about United airlines. Since the merger with Continental, things have frankly gone to the dogs. We have documented the downfall of United here. Jeff Smisek may be good at mergers and marketing, but he sucks at operations.

Every time we think things may be getting better, they don’t.

So it has come to this. No more United. I will now show as much loyalty to United as they show to me. Towards that end, we flew Delta earlier this year, we flew American, and we just flew Virgin to SFO.

Just to make this all clear, two weeks ago I did a trip through SFO on United. Yesterday I did the same trip on Virgin. The experience was not the same.

One United flight had a wifi logo on the side, but the wifi did not work. The return flight did not have wifi at all. Having no wifi is like having no oxygen. On a hub to hub trip (IADSFO) there is no excuse any more for no wifi.

The United flight was crammed full and the crew was surly. But there was room to work in Economy Plus. Well, I could have worked if there had been some wifi. Instead I watched a movie on my nexus.

United: pringles that cost $, busted seats, and no wifi

United: pringles that cost $, busted seats, and no wifi

This is the advanced technology display on an actual United aircraft

This is the advanced technology display on an actual United aircraft

Nice upholstery on United

Nice upholstery on United

So the United experience was pretty bad all told, especially for a business flyer.

How about Virgin? It all started out fine, but then:

Uh oh, there is bad weather in San Francisco.

Uh oh, there is bad weather in San Francisco.

Everyone was delayed, but United chose the drip delay method as opposed to the doom and despair drop.

Virgin was staffed by very friendly and nice people. And their wifi worked as advertised (much to the chagrin of my staff). But the seats in economy do not allow laptop use in a comfortable fashion. That extra four inches in United economy plus makes all of the difference. I still have a headache from using Virgin wifi for 5 hours.

Virgin is too crammed for a mac air

Virgin is too crammed for a mac air

Ultimately, this may all boil down to money. Pay more for a better seat? I guess so as long as there is a real productivity impact.

We’ll try that on Virgin in 2015.

One Response to “United versus Virgin: Grizzly Veteran Flies New Airline”


  1. On the leg back from SFO (Virgin), we paid $130 to upgrade to a “cabin select” seat (or whatever it is called). The steep price is worth the cost to get work done.


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