Wifi

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.