Virgin America takes in-flight experience to a new level

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Last week, a friend of mine boarded a Virgin America flight from San Francisco to Los Angeles. As is the case often at most busy airports these days, there was a delay in departure, due to air traffic delays. The flight sat on the tarmac for 10 minutes. But this is where the typical story ended and the fun started.

The Virgin America flight attendants took their positions in the aisles, but not for safety demonstration, since they already have a super cool video for that. They announced to the passengers that since they are waiting, they should have some fun. They started playing games with the passengers! The flight attendants asked the pleasantly surprised passengers questions about Virgin America as well as other topics, and those who answered correctly even received prizes! What a brilliant way not just to engage the customers, but leave an indelible impression about the airline.

Airlines must find innovative ways to engage the customers before, during and after the journey. Having a captive audience for a sustained period of time is something marketers crave for. That not only enhances the experience, but empowers the customers with stories they can share with others. After all, this experience was shared by a friend of mine too. Virgin America is already doing a great job at enhancing the in-flight experience, and this is yet another feather in the hat for them. The rest of the airlines, especially those in the US, should take note and put on their thinking hats.

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Shashank Nigam

Shashank Nigam

Shashank Nigam is the CEO of SimpliFlying and a globally sought-after consultant, speaker and thought-leader on airline branding and customer engagement strategy. He is also the youngest winner of the Global Brand Leadership Award and has addressed senior aviation executives globally, from Chile to Canada and from Sydney to San Francisco. Shashank's perspectives have found their way into major media outlets, including CNN Travel, CNBC, MSNBC, Bloomberg UTV, Mashable and in leading publications like Airline Business, ATW, Aviation Week, and others. Shashank studied Information Systems Management and Business Management at Singapore Management University and Carnegie Mellon University. Hailing from India, he splits his time between Singapore and Vancouver, among other cities.
Shashank Nigam
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  • Gyanda

    I flew Virgin America from San Francisco to Seattle and back. I started looking for tickets with the same expectation that I have come to maintain for domestic air travel but I was pleasantly surprised at what I saw:

    1. I started looking for tickets two days before travel and as such, most flights I found were very expensive, some even twice the usual cost. I had never heard about Virgin America before but it was the cheapest ticket on priceline. So, I searched their website and found out about their Priced to Fly scheme which offered exceptionally low rates, much to my glee.

    2. At the airport, my flight from SFO to SeaTac was delayed by ten minutes. During this short period of time, the ground staff kept us continuously updated about the flight status and apologized for the inconvenience. It felt almost unnecessary given the functioning of the rest of the industry. Five minutes into waiting, one of the staff members announced, “Let’s make the wait easier by playing a game and winning prizes.” The game was 20 questions and even though I do not know what the prize coupons were, they did seem to make the winners smile.

    3. Boarding the plane was like entering a savvy lounge. There was music playing in the background; the division between the first and the economy-class was a snazzy blue screen instead of the regular curtains. There were headphones (with a choice of two different kinds) for everyone to pick up at the entrance. Every passenger had personal in-flight entertainment with options ranging from TV to Food. Most features were free but some like Premium TV and Food were charged. I spent the remaining time switching between watching Greece vs Spain Live and enjoying TED talks.

    Overall, I was truly impressed. I joined their eleVAte program immediately to earn some precious miles!

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