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Thursday, Aug. 9, 2007 at 9:15 am

Experience Virgin

By Jeffrey Eisenberg
August 9th, 2007

Sir Richard as himselfVirgin is a brand that grows by word-of-mouth; not simply because Richard Branson is a one-man PR machine, but because he backs up his talk by delivering a “cool,” superior customer experience. Yesterday, Virgin America started a new non-stop service flying from New York’s JFK to San Francisco.

CNet’s reports on the experience:

The Airbus A319 and A320 fleet [...] features mood lighting that will change from day to night and leather seats with adjustable headrests. What’s more, Virgin America’s planes are a techy’s and gadget lover’s dream with such frills as full USB and electrical power connections at every seat, both in first class and economy. Using the ports you’ll be able to charge portable gaming devices, MP3 players, laptops, cameras and cell phones. You won’t be able to make calls of course, even with Virgin Mobile handsets, but your phone will be fully powered up for your yammering needs once you arrive. And later on, the airline will activate ethernet ports at every seat so you surf the Web from 35,000 feet.

The seatback video screens will offer a wealth of programming beyond the normal in-flight safety video. Not only will you find satellite TV from the Dish network, but also you’ll get live TV (a first for an airline), streaming satellite radio, audio books, an MP3 library with 3,000 tracks and 25 pay-per-view movies. You’ll be able to manipulate the screen through a remote control set into your seat’s armrest. I used such a remote recently on a Cathay Pacific flight and I loved having so many buttons right at my fingertips.

While those goodies alone are enough to make Virgin stand out from the airline pack the strangest entertainment offering is the ability to chat with your fellow passengers via the seatback screens. After registering a name for your particular seat you’ll be able to view the names of fellow flyers and then send a text message or invite several people to a chat room. And for your messaging needs the aforementioned remote control includes a full QWERTY keyboard.

So why would you want to do this you ask? Well, as Virgin Group chairman Richard Branson said this morning on the Today show, you’ll be able to introduce yourself to a “pretty lady” sitting nearby. As some might find the whole idea of in-flight texting a bit stalkerish (you don’t have to answer the messages) they’ll be pleased to know that Virgin America prohibits communication that is “indecent, obscene, pornographic, libelous, defamatory, harassing, threatening, abusive, hateful or violent.”

You’ll also be able to use the screens to order food or drinks from the mini-bar. As is the case with most domestic flying these days the food and drink will cost extra but with fares between San Francisco and JFK at just $278 I’m more than willing to fork over cash for my peanuts.

JFK is the airport closest to my home and I fly often to San Francisco, so I intend to try them out. If Bryan didn’t already have his flight booked to SFO for Search Engine Strategies next week, he would have booked here immediately.

Check out this (unfortunately clunky) flash presentation: The VA Difference. How does that compare with your last flight? Would you try Virgin America?

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Comments (2)

  1. Talk about UVP! If these guys are serious, they are totally setting themselves apart from the competition! I’d like to try them out too, but let me tell you, with all that’s been said I still think I’d prefer continental’s miles rewards system!!

  2. You’ve gotta love the way they do business! We love to fly Virign here in Australia, and will definatley be flying Virgin America when in the US. How cool…;-)

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Jeffrey Eisenberg, founder of FutureNow, is a professional marketing speaker and the co-author of New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling books Call to Action and Waiting For Your Cat to Bark. You can friend him on Facebook.

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