This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Slowly but surely, America’s long time favorite airline is disappearing into the folds of another. Throughout the summer and into next year, Alaska Airlines is incorporating more of Virgin America’s award-winning operations into its own. Check-in counters and terminal gates are being merged, and the carrier’s only lounge at LAX is no more. Virgin America passengers should be in good hands — Alaska Airlines has finished at or near the top in customer satisfaction rankings every year since 2010 — but certainly many will and should miss that unmistakable Richard Branson flair that makes flying on a Virgin airline so different. By 2019, Alaska plans to refurbish all of Virgin America’s aircraft so its red IFE screens and opulent first-class chairs will soon be a thing of the past. Until then, passengers can still catch a flight and have one of the most unique experiences in the sky.

1. Purple Lights

Virgin Atlantic was among the first airlines in the world to introduce the concept of mood lighting to aircraft cabins. And Branson’s team took the task quite seriously. Unlike many airlines, which give flight attendants leeway in choosing the lighting colors, Virgin prescribes a strict and calculated regimen of colors throughout the course of a flight. The airline expressly forbids the use of green and blue light onboard its aircraft — it’s believed to suppress your appetite — favoring instead a signature purple palette that’s remarkably effective at achieving a unique sense of calm aboard Virgin’s planes.

Virgin does mood lighting right.

Traveling eastbound on an evening flight? Watch the color shift from bright fuschia to passive mauve to soothing royal purple, in concert with the fading light outside. At night, the airline uses an entirely different light setting designed to permit maximum visibility without interfering with sleep. Virgin has scientifically studied mood lighting and found that apricot coloring has more desirable effects on mood than the color yellow, for instance — purple was also deemed to be better than blue. Let’s just say no other airline puts as much effort into making sure you’re properly and optimally lit during your time onboard.

2. Black Leather Seats

The seats, oh those glorious seats. From coast to coast, there simply isn’t a cooler looking and more comfortable-feeling economy seat on an airplane. Virgin’s 32-inch seat pitch also bests most domestic products. Add about three inches of padding and you have a uniquely cushy ride from sea to shining sea. If excessively generous padding isn’t enough, Virgin spent extra money to bury it’s in-flight entertainment control boxes beneath the floor of it’s A320 aircraft, eliminating the obnoxious metal boxes that devour leg space on most US airlines.

Pick Main Cabin Select seats for free with Virgin America Gold status. Image courtesy of Virgin America.

3. White Leather Seats

While Virgin is the only airline to offer economy passengers the chance to sink into cushy black leather seats, it’s also the only airline to ensconce first-class passengers in plush all-white leather recliners. Beyond their superficial superiority, Virgin’s first-class recliners are possibly the best ever used on a US aircraft. Every first-class seat on every Virgin America flight features an industry-leading 52-inches of pitch, individually adjustable reading lights, fully adjustable leg rests, lumbar support and massage functions. Then there’s the food, which has been declared the best offered in domestic first class by multiple sources, in multiple respects.

Virgin America

4. Red — Virgin’s Touch Screen Ordering Service

For the life of me, I can’t figure out why more airlines don’t offer food ordering via touch screen. Considering the overpriced, high-margin nature of buy-on-board food, Virgin’s at-seat touch screen interface, Red, certainly reduces the friction of passing out cash for snacks on a six-hour transcontinental flight. Virgin America flight attendants still do the customary beverage cart pass-through, but once the initial service has ended, passengers seated in economy can order both alcoholic and complimentary non-alcoholic drinks from the touch screen menu. The airline’s entire inventory of snack and meal offerings are also available this way. Red gives passengers the opportunity to open up a tab, meaning a single credit card swipe allows continuous and uninterrupted foodand beverage service throughout the flight. Customers can even order a drink to a passenger sitting in another row. Service is generally speedy and your order will arrive in a matter of minutes, always delivered by a smiling FA.

Virgin America red

5. White Orchids

Details matter and few people believe this more than Richard Branson, who has inspired his airline to attend to minute aspects of the customer experience, even down to the size and shape of boarding passes — Virgin America’s are perfectly designed to fit inside a wallet or pocket. Every time I fly with Virgin America, I look forward finding freshly cut floral bouquets at desks and kiosks. Sure, it’s an expense. But it’s just nice and it makes the whole experience feel special, particularly when you’re looking across an otherwise ascetic landscape of bare airport counters.

Virgin America checkin

What will you miss most about Virgin America? Sound off, below.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

The American Express Platinum card has some of the best perks out there: cardholders enjoy the best domestic lounge access (Delta SkyClubs, Centurion Lounges, and Priority Pass), a $200 annual airline fee credit as well as up to $200 in Uber credits, and mid-tier elite status at SPG, Marriott, and Hilton. Combined with the 60,000 point welcome offer -- worth $1,140 based on TPG's valuations -- this card is a no-brainer for frequent travelers. Here are 5 reasons you should consider this card, as well as how you can figure out if the $550 annual fee makes sense for you.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
  • Enjoy Uber VIP status and free rides in the U.S. up to $15 each month, plus a bonus $20 in December. That can be up to $200 in annual Uber savings.
  • 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
  • 5X Membership Rewards points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
  • Enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
  • Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts. Learn More.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
  • Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. Enrollment required.
  • $550 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
N/A
Annual Fee
$550
Balance Transfer Fee
See Terms
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.