How Virgin America is Staying Ahead of the Social Media Takeoff

So far we have seen Airlines and Airports who are using social media to reach its fliers, and most of these corporations seem to be leading the way with Twitter. What is the next step for airlines? What will make an airline stand out now that it seems to be the norm to have an official Twitter page? Well Virgin Airlines is asking that question and coming up with solutions. While they may not be the biggest airline, they are making breakthroughs in the way they are using social media and the way their fliers can access it.

In  May of 2009, Virgin Airlines became the first airline to offer fleet wide Wifi accessibility and still today remains the only airline that offers Wifi on every flight.  Even more impressive than that is that in February of 2014 Virgin Airlines announced that it would be teaming up with Here on Biz to offer their fliers the first ever in flight social network. Here on Biz is an application for Iphones and other smart devices that keeps track of your professional contacts that you can import from other sites like LinkedIn. It tracks your location and the location of your contacts as you travel and keeps you updated on when your paths cross during your travels. This could be particularly useful for companies who send their employees to conferences, flights could be used to plan and send out schedules between coworkers. This new service that launched in March of 2014 is also a new way to bring in more revenue for the airline. While the application is free to download and can be used even when not inflight, in order to use it inflight you must pay for a subscription to the airlines inflight Wifi service called Gogo. This isn’t the first time that Virgin Airlines has made an attempt to get fliers communicating with each other during flights. In early 2013 Virgin Airlines launched Seat to Seat texting and delivery.  Using this, fliers could look at a screen attached to the seat back in front of them and by looking at a grid of all the other seats on the flight and communicate with other fliers and even send them food and drinks.

While admittedly it is a neat feature, it has very little real use other than attempting to flatter other fliers as seen in the comical promotional video done by Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group. Virgin America is hoping that this new way of social communication will be a little bit more productive. “The best business connections often happen unexpectedly, and we’ve heard many stories of partnerships and start-up ideas being born on our flights,” says Luanne Calvert, Virgin America’s Chief Marketing Officer. “We hope this is an interesting, easy way for entrepreneurs to take advantage of downtime in-flight to build or renew their professional connections.” In order to promote this new feature Virgin America is offering discounted tickets, as well as a Twitter contest. This contest invites users to tweet their dream business travel connection and how they would break the ice with them using the hash-tag #PlanePitch. Winners are chosen weekly and receive complimentary Gogo Wifi passes and a grand prize winner will get Virgin America Elevate Gold Status.

It will be interesting to see  how well this new service catches on, and whether or not we will be hearing about any major business being done on one of these flights. As the success of this first experiment of in flight social interaction takes place, we will have to wait and see if other airlines began offering similar services.

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4 comments

  1. Interesting angle with the connecting fliers with each other. Virgin is definitely creative and trying to gain attention through this tactic, and I think that even though it’s creative, it isn’t super multi purposeful. Being the first to offer in-flight free wifi though is a big deal and it’s unfortunate that this brand doesn’t get more attention for that.

  2. I feel like Sir Richard Branson and Virgin are always trying to think of something new and different to other brands that helps them stand out. This new online app is a great example! Flights can be a little boring and if you haven’t got work to do, you can use this new technology to make new connections. Richard Branson knows all about this having started Virgin himself, he will have connected with thousand of people on different ideas, many of them will have been unexpected. It gives you a chance to do something different and new in which anything can come from it!

  3. The fact that Virgin Airlines is still the only airline to offer Wifi on every flight is astounding. It is 2014, you would think that more airlines would jump on the bandwagon, it is a great service that most fliers would enjoy. Plane’s in the past have provided an opportunity to disconnect person from the world and breathe. Unfortunately in this century our culture’s pace has only increased and any cause for delay for received, sent, or action is frowned upon. Virgin Airlines partnering with Here on Biz, is an interesting path for the airline to choose. Especially since it is a paid for app and a littler unnerving, it seems like an odd choice. To see where all you contacts are located, seems like a breach of privacy and maybe ethics as well. It is a very fine line.

  4. Virgin Airlines offering their own social network is a great idea and a great way for them to make money. Business want to keep track of their employees, especially since society is so keen on constantly being updated at all moments of the day. This idea would appeal to most business, so they would invest in it. Twitter contests are also a great way to create relationships and have their hashtags be shared and possibly even become trending. People them become aware of their brand and would think about flying with Virgin on their next flight.

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