Observations from an AS Elite trying VX

Old Aug 10, 17, 7:45 pm
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Observations from an AS Elite trying VX

I'm a relatively critical AS 75k who recently flew his first three legs on VX. Wanted to share some observations and also to ask if these are normal.

Hard product. The planes look worn on the inside. On two of my seats, the leather upholstery had exposed foam on the side seams--one small one large. The seats themselves are more comfortable than the AS FC seats, but two (not the same two as had the upholstery damage) did not function correctly and none of the tray tables were properly cleaned. One, the "motors were out" and the FA had to help me adjust its recline. The upper part on the other worked fine, but the foot-rest would not move. Also, the reading light's "gooseneck" was worn out and it kept flopping. All three planes had somewhat dirty carpeting and the clear partitions were abraded. Similar to Alaska, Main Cabin passengers weren't discouraged from using the forward lav when the aisles were clear of carts. This may have contributed to the lavs being uniformly dirty, with debris on the floor, even right after take-off. That said, all the seats were incredibly comfortable and well padded and I loved the recline! Update: As pointed out below, the seat condition is a known issue with the VX 319s.

Boarding: The cabin lighting reminded me a lot of B6's Mint--in a good way--but B6 keeps the cabin a lot brighter during boarding/deplaning. The lowered lighting on VX combined with keeping the shades down made the cabin quite dark. My seat-mate dropped his black phone and had a hard time finding it.

Food: The food is stellar for airplane food and more on par with international than domestic offerings. I've only ever had better domestic meals in First on AA's LAX-JFK transcons. Special shout out to the Miso Black Cod that was cooked perfectly and the standard scotch being something other than Dewer's. Note: I've been on about 10 more segments since I returned from this trip and none of their catering was as good as VX.

Service: I was disappointed. I was consistently one of the last to be a) served drinks b) asked what entrée I preferred c) have my tray bussed. I initially assumed that this was deliberate and malicious on the part of the FAs as I overheard those being served before me being thanked for their loyalty but I, and the other AS elite, not getting acknowledged as we were served last. I posted as much and had the serving order explained: It was deliberate but NOT malicious. VX serves based on fare paid and elite level with serving order going: Elevate Gold Full Fare, Elevate Silver Full Fare, Non-Elevate Full Fare, Elevate Gold Upgrade, etc. I've been informed that while AS status will be on the manifests in the future, currently AS elites show as non-status. Given that VX elites receive VX elite benefits on AS metal, this is more upsetting than when I thought it was VX FAs going rogue. However, I do not fault the VX FAs for this as they were simply following procedure. Note: The info that AS status is missing from the manifests and the details on service order are from VXCabinCrew.

What it does not explain is why, on one flight, I had to bus my own tray. I had finished my meal, there was no food left on the tray and my glass was empty, and was ready to start working on my laptop. The tray was never cleared, although the FA walked past a few times and cleared other pax trays without them flagging her down. Initially, I was reading while waiting but by the time I'd finished my chapter and urgently needed to get to work, she was helping out in main cabin. So, I cleared it myself.

Finally, on one flight I was bulkhead aisle and my seat mate boarded relatively late. I put my briefcase and rollaboard in the bin, and took my seat. There was ample room remaining for my seat mate. When he boarded, he has two rollaboards and put one in the open space I'd left. Then he took my roll aboard down and put his second one up where mine had been. I asked him to put my suitcase back up but he ignored me and took his seat. I was then told by the FA that my bag had to be stowed. I tried to explain that it had been stowed but had been removed by another pax and now there was no room for it. She then tells me that it'll have to be put further back in the cabin, in the first open space but that I could access it inflight. When I mentioned that mine had been there first and that my seatmate's should be moved instead, she responded that I shouldn't worry because my bag was close by in row 8 and that the gentleman who had moved my bag was a valued Elevate member. I'm not sure if she just didn't see him move my bag/didn't believe me or what, but I'm still bothered by this. This particular passenger also raised his window shade every about 30-45 minutes for periods of a minute or two while we were at cruising altitude. This was jarring as every other shade in FC was down and with the mood lighting making for a dark cabin.

Passengers: I was unimpressed by the passengers in FC on VX, I understand that the airline has no control over the personalities but the VX FC pax seemed especially unpleasant. In addition to the passenger above, the most egregious was a young(ish) man who, when they called FC boarding, elbowed his way to the front of the line, cutting in front of most of the queued FC PAX. He was loudly on his phone right up until liftoff and a lot of what he said was personal comments about the other passengers. The most offensive (and ironic) was him loudly discussing the size of two slightly chubby young ladies who were in earshot. He kept referring to them as "heifers" and talking about how he couldn't believe their behinds (not his word, he used something much more vulgar) could even fit in the seats. They weren't very big and, ironically, he was large enough to require an extender!

My takeaway is that:
- The food is far superior to AS.
- The seats in theory are better than AS, but in practice you should avoid the VX 319s.
- The general cleanliness and upkeep is worse than AS. I'm going to speculate for a moment. I think things are going to get worse on the older airframes (like the 319s and the older 320-200s) as their leases start expiring in about 18 months and they'll likely only get the bare minimum of upkeep until they're gone. The newer 320-200s and the 321neos are probably a safer bet as they'll still be around through 2025+.
- The service, if you are a VX elite, is better than AS. If you're an AS elite, it'll get better once the manifests are updated. If you're a regular pax, you just have to hope that there are few elites on board.

UPDATE: Received a wholly unexpected call from VX tonight--glad they read the forums! I am very surprised by this because the in-person response to my concerns but VX was that nobody was forcing me to fly VX and the over-the-phone response was equally fruitless. Couldn't talk right then as I was about to jump on a conference call but they're calling back tomorrow to discuss and I will update with results. I've also taken this opportunity to clean up some of the more emotional language (I was pretty pissed off when I wrote this) but without removing any of the facts.
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Last edited by Erik Jacobsen; Aug 30, 17 at 7:50 pm Reason: I always typo JetBlue as B5, not B6... Some day I'll learn. =)
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Old Aug 11, 17, 1:23 am
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I'm a flight attendant for VX, and this whole experience you summarized is completely atypical of the usual service levels. This sounds nothing like my work place, so this must have been a VERY off day. Hope you'll give it a chance again. We are all very excited about the opportunity to work for Alaska, so I highly doubt you experienced any passive-aggressiveness due to the integration. Furthermore, we don't offer any benefits for AS elites currently, so we have no way of knowing who is an AS elite or not. We only know who our VX elites are. The only area of your critique that sounds accurate is in the condition of the planes. They have been slowly replacing the First Class seats on our planes, starting with the oldest ones. But these cabins will be replaced with the new AS cabins within the next year or two anyway. Sorry you had such a bad time flying us. You should definitely follow up with VX customer care.
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Old Aug 11, 17, 12:33 pm
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Originally Posted by VXCabinCrew View Post
The only area of your critique that sounds accurate is in the condition of the planes.
I'd be concerned about another passenger removing my bag and putting it on the floor. Is this tolerated by Virgin flight crew? I would have jumped up and put my own bag right where it was from the start if another passenger removed it from the overhead.
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Old Aug 11, 17, 9:21 pm
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I have to say after 4+ years as a VX Gold, this is very atypical. I'd agree some of the older bird have some seats with wear in them.

As for being recognized as a VX Gold, it rarely happened.

The best flight attendant I've ever had in 35+ years of flying is one of the really senior attendants on VX.
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Old Aug 11, 17, 11:08 pm
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Originally Posted by tom911 View Post
I'd be concerned about another passenger removing my bag and putting it on the floor. Is this tolerated by Virgin flight crew? I would have jumped up and put my own bag right where it was from the start if another passenger removed it from the overhead.
Tell me about it. That's messed up.
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Old Aug 23, 17, 4:47 pm
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Sounds like you had an extremely rare permutation of bad service.

I've only once out of 200+ VX flights in F been addressed by name, and it was by an inflight team leader in Virgin America's inaugural class.

I agree the seats are falling apart though. Especially on the DAL-based A319s. (Has anyone else noticed that the A319s are effectively based at DAL, or were, until AS tweaks the operation.)
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Old Aug 23, 17, 10:18 pm
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On the one hand, my instinct is that you had a bad run. It happens. On the other hand, I cannot help but wonder how much of this is down to AS/VX falling down on upkeep on equipment they intend to change out within a year to 18 months (for the hard product) and some malaise due to the impending merger (for the crew stuff).
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Old Aug 23, 17, 10:36 pm
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Originally Posted by GrayAnderson View Post
On the one hand, my instinct is that you had a bad run. It happens. On the other hand, I cannot help but wonder how much of this is down to AS/VX falling down on upkeep on equipment they intend to change out within a year to 18 months (for the hard product) and some malaise due to the impending merger (for the crew stuff).
I think you've got a point here....the comments I've read from VX flyers, with the exception of the notoriously inept VX call center, all seem to center around lack up upkeep...worn seats, Red in-flight entertainment system not working, under-catered flights, clunky website, etc. If we had a time machine to immediately move us forward a few years, I think we'd all be happy with the newly merged airline *fingers crossed*.
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Old Aug 25, 17, 10:53 pm
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Originally Posted by VX N281VA View Post
Sounds like you had an extremely rare permutation of bad service.

I've only once out of 200+ VX flights in F been addressed by name, and it was by an inflight team leader in Virgin America's inaugural class.

I agree the seats are falling apart though. Especially on the DAL-based A319s. (Has anyone else noticed that the A319s are effectively based at DAL, or were, until AS tweaks the operation.)
Interesting... especially as two of the planes were 319s and one was a 320.
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Old Aug 25, 17, 11:01 pm
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Originally Posted by VXCabinCrew View Post
I'm a flight attendant for VX, and this whole experience you summarized is completely atypical of the usual service levels. This sounds nothing like my work place, so this must have been a VERY off day. Hope you'll give it a chance again. We are all very excited about the opportunity to work for Alaska, so I highly doubt you experienced any passive-aggressiveness due to the integration. Furthermore, we don't offer any benefits for AS elites currently, so we have no way of knowing who is an AS elite or not. We only know who our VX elites are. The only area of your critique that sounds accurate is in the condition of the planes. They have been slowly replacing the First Class seats on our planes, starting with the oldest ones. But these cabins will be replaced with the new AS cabins within the next year or two anyway. Sorry you had such a bad time flying us. You should definitely follow up with VX customer care.
I'm hoping you're right...given that prior to that trip I'd booked several other VX flights for in the next few months. And I'd hate to have this be "the norm".

Given that you're a VX FA, could you answer two things for me:
1. You say that currently you don't see any elite status for AS fliers... does this mean that you see elite status for VX fliers? Because that could explain the recognition of the VX elites and the ignoring of the AS elite(s).

2. Can you please, for the love of Pete, please explain the service logic? Most airlines are either front to back, back to front, or front to back going south/east and back to front going north/west. I was really confused by the skipping of some people and coming back to them later when taking meal orders. It seemed as if the logic was status-based, so I assumed as much but maybe it's random? Or down to FA preference? I don't know. I just know that I was always served/meal order taken either last or second to last... after people in front of, next to, and behind me.

Finally, I did call VX CS and was told that they were sorry I had such an experience but there was nothing they could do. That's it. I emailed AS CS and they gave me 3k miles (not necessary or asked for) and told me that these were "growing pains" and that VX should be able to see AS elite status on the manifest starting "end of summer".
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Old Aug 25, 17, 11:03 pm
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I should also add that with B6 bringing Mint to Seattle in Feb (BOS)/Apr (JFK) of next year... I've yet to see one good reason why not to jump ship.
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Old Aug 26, 17, 9:50 am
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Originally Posted by Erik Jacobsen View Post
I should also add that with B6 bringing Mint to Seattle in Feb (BOS)/Apr (JFK) of next year... I've yet to see one good reason why not to jump ship.
Mint is an amazing product. God willing you don't suffer IRROPS though, as B6 doesn't handle that very smoothly. But the Mint product is just fantastic.

I've had wholly mediocre experiences on VX in F and Y both. Cabin conditions are embarrassing - dirty, non-functioning IFE, broken seats. I've had 6 segments on VX this year (5 in F, 1 in Y) and something was broken on all 5 F segments, including two flights with non-functional seats. Sadly, on one of those segments we also had a seemingly non-functional FA in F, so getting someone to help you adjust the seat was not exactly easy.

I actively avoid VX now except when it truly is the lowest fare or is a nonstop where others don't have one.
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Old Aug 26, 17, 11:48 am
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Originally Posted by Erik Jacobsen View Post
I should also add that with B6 bringing Mint to Seattle in Feb (BOS)/Apr (JFK) of next year... I've yet to see one good reason why not to jump ship.
I think you've answered your own question!

I rarely fly but we fly SFO/ord on Vx f. I love it. No matter how negative the experience, it's better than ual and aa, the only competitors to fly this nonstop route. I always prefer Vx over ual and aa. But for SFO/OGG, we fly ha f without even checking prices from other airlines.

I'm sorry you had lousy experiences this year. We flew Vx f 4 times last year and loved each flight. Only once this year and I still loved it. But I certainly wouldn't have enjoyed your experience, esp when another pax moved your bag. That makes no sense at all - I've never seen that happen. Only naught Pax behavior I've seen is when a guy was in my wife's seat because he hoped that she'd switch with him. He accepted her decision but shouldn't have been sitting there in the first place.

But I feel Vx pax are overall more polite and less aggressive than ual and aa pax from my previous (up to 2014) years of flying ual and aa.
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Old Aug 26, 17, 8:36 pm
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Originally Posted by Erik Jacobsen View Post
I'm hoping you're right...given that prior to that trip I'd booked several other VX flights for in the next few months. And I'd hate to have this be "the norm".

Given that you're a VX FA, could you answer two things for me:
1. You say that currently you don't see any elite status for AS fliers... does this mean that you see elite status for VX fliers? Because that could explain the recognition of the VX elites and the ignoring of the AS elite(s).

2. Can you please, for the love of Pete, please explain the service logic? Most airlines are either front to back, back to front, or front to back going south/east and back to front going north/west. I was really confused by the skipping of some people and coming back to them later when taking meal orders. It seemed as if the logic was status-based, so I assumed as much but maybe it's random? Or down to FA preference? I don't know. I just know that I was always served/meal order taken either last or second to last... after people in front of, next to, and behind me.

Finally, I did call VX CS and was told that they were sorry I had such an experience but there was nothing they could do. That's it. I emailed AS CS and they gave me 3k miles (not necessary or asked for) and told me that these were "growing pains" and that VX should be able to see AS elite status on the manifest starting "end of summer".
Would also like to hear answers to the posted. Questions.
We have been flying VX F this year and have also noticed erratic meal order and drink orders. Last flight, 2D had 2 drinks and 2 bags of chips from snack basket before takeoff. We were glad to just get a bottle of water. 1A and D.
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Old Aug 27, 17, 10:40 am
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I'm based out of SFO and fly VX regularly. I've never had the service levels the OP reported. Now seat mates are another story (or three) but the airline isn't responsible for peoples behavior.

I do agree that since after the merger was announced, especially after it closed, the maintenance levels of the seats, IFE, etc... have gone way down even on the newer A320s. That I put totally on AS. They either don't know how to maintain them or don't care.
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