One of the most coveted perks at Travelzoo is the Travelzoo Experience, in which Deal Experts and other employees take advantage of the same travel, entertainment and local deals we publish to our subscribers and report back on their experience.
Recently, my wife and I took our toddler on a Virgin America flight to California. It wasn't our little man's first flight, but it was the longest. Naturally, we were a bit anxious.
Still, we were excited to fly Virgin America because we had read rave reviews about the airline's elite service. Even better, we had booked a terrific rate through a Virgin America sale in a Travelzoo Newsflash. Needless to say we had high hopes for our upcoming journey.
Before our flight, we had read about Virgin's purple "mood lights" inside the cabin and worried that the light might be disorienting or headache-inducing, especially for our toddler. But as soon as we walked aboard the aircraft, my wife and I both noted that the lighting was pleasant, soothing and subtle. In fact, the subdued lighting helped ease our toddler to sleep. So thanks to Virgin America's mood lighting, our toddler slept half the flight to California.
While he was asleep, we had plenty of time to familiarize ourselves with the aircraft's in-flight entertainment.
Each seat has its own touch-screen monitor with a variety of entertainment options.
My favorite was under a button marked Journey. That lets you know altitude (13386 feet), ground speed (437 mph), outside temperature (17 degrees Fahrenheit) and distance to go (446 miles). I've seen that feature on plenty of international flights, but this was a first for a domestic carrier.
Under the Watch button, we could choose on-demand movies like "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" or "Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol." Or, we could opt for foreign films, satellite TV by Dish Network (which I used to watch a live version of "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart"); on-demand tv episodes like HBO's "Game of Thrones" or "Boardwalk Empire." And the Listen button features popular music from artists like Adele, Alicia Keys and Aretha Franklin as well as radio and music videos.
The Eat button was impressive, as it offered individually-priced alcoholic drinks like Jack Daniels and other specialty cocktails (under a tab called "The Good Stuff"). Meals could be purchased through the console, including an enticing cheese plate. Seriously, the only cheese I've seen on a plane usually comes in cracker form.
The console has a built-in media player as well, where travelers can flip TV channels quickly (my neighbors were watching the latest James Bond on TBS and another was watching "Catch Me If you Can" on TV.
One note for parents: the entertainment console even has a parental control feature if you want to restrict access to certain programming.
Once our toddler woke up, he wanted to stand up and explore the seats around us. Hey, it's not every day you get to fly on a plane, right? Thankfully, Virgin America's seats have more than enough legroom. We didn't feel cramped at all, even in our main cabin seats.
We flew a competing domestic carrier home from California and as soon as we stepped aboard, we regretted our decision. The harsh lighting, unfriendly flight attendants and inadequate service created an anxious and uncomfortable in-flight experience. Our toddler didn't sleep a wink the entire four hour flight and as soon as we stepped off the plane, my wife and I said to each other, "That was nothing like Virgin America."
I never thought I would miss purple mood lighting.