Virgin America Has Made it Fun to Fly Again

Whenever Matrix Group flies Creative Director Alex Pineda to the DC area (from San Francisco, where he is based), he asks to fly Virgin America.  Alex says the Virgin flying experience is “superior to other airlines.” Last week, I got to experience why Alex likes Virgin so much.

For my son’s Spring Break, my family spent a week in San Francisco and we flew round trip on Virgin America.  After two flights, I am a total fan, so much so that I told my husband that from now on, whenever possible, we will fly Virgin.

Just what makes the Virgin America user experience so different?

Virgin America doesn’t use different or larger planes.  The airfare was comparable to other airlines when I was booking on Orbitz.  We had to pay $20 to check our bags.  The legroom on the plane wasn’t more than on other planes I’ve flown recently.  The food and alcohol weren’t free.  And I didn’t get a blanket or pillow.

What made Virgin America different was the entertainment and how food and beverage were dispensed.

  • The beverage carts only  made one pass through the plane.  But for the rest of the 5+ hour flight, if we wanted food or drink, we used our touch screens to place an order.  If I wanted water, I touched water and a flight attendant came by within minutes with a bottle of water – for free.  When my son wanted cookies, chocolate or a sandwich, I swiped my credit card, and the flight attendant came by with his order.  So for the entire flight, instead of just the couple of times the carts come around, we had access to food and beverages.
  • There was Wi-Fi on the plan! For about $8, I could get wi-fi and check e-mail and surf the Web!  Unbelievable!  And each seat had regular AC power so I could keep my laptop plugged in during the whole flight!
  • I loved the free Dish Network. No kidding, I caught an NCIS marathon the way to SF and a House marathon on the way back.  Truly decadent!
  • There were also first run movies for rent and an awesome library of songs. I was able to make my own playlist of songs and listen to some great music!
  • Perhaps most important, my son enjoyed music and shows appropriate just for kids.  He listened to Schoolhouse Rock, played games and watched videos for hours!  Hours!  While mommy and daddy enjoyed their own shows!  Priceless!
  • And did I mention the purple mood lighting in the main cabin?

So here’s what struck me about the Virgin America experience.  Virgin didn’t try to change all aspects of the flying experience.  They focused on changing just one thing — entertainment — and ended up transforming the whole user experience. They also managed to get me to spend a whole lot more money, willingly and happily, than I have ever spent during a flight.

How about you?  What one thing can you change about your customer’s user experience that could radically transform your company and catapult you ahead of the competition?

10 thoughts on “Virgin America Has Made it Fun to Fly Again

  1. what impresses me as well about virgin is how they apply their branding to everything. the instructional video for example, about how to buckle your seat belt, emergency landing procedures, etc, is done with a wry, ironic sense of humor, a virgin trademark. as joanna mentioned, the in-flight entertainment is awesome, the food is pretty good, and on the whole, it makes the whole flying experience a lot more enjoyable. on a long flight from coast to coast, it just makes the time fly by. viva virgin!

  2. I totally agree with you on Virgin. I really wish we had Virgin trains here on the east coast – that would make life grand. A virgin train ride to Richmond or Philly or even NY. That is something I would really pay for.

  3. Man, I have not flown on their planes but now I want to! Agree totally – make one aspect great about your customer service, and it’s bound to be remembered. :)

    Garry

  4. Thanks for the timely kudos for Virgin America! I feel validated for my choice to fly with Virgin instead of my usual United for my business trip to CA later this month. Now I’m really looking forward to my first flight with Virgin America. BTW, I actually made the choice based on price: Virgin America had a killer deal on round trip cross-country flights back in February–$260! I’m sure they’ll get more from me, but I’m happy!

  5. I have never flown Virgin America, but I’ve always heard good things about it. I’m seriously considering booking my next flight with them. In reference to Alex’s post, I think another great example of an airline doing a great job with applying their branding to their flying experience is JetBlue. Even just their messaging at the beginning of the flight puts me at ease as they tell me to “sit back, relax, and enjoy my complimentary television and the extra leg room.” They also serve “blue” Terra potato chips, etc.

    I recently tried out a new airline (to me) Spirit, and I must say, I booked the ticket because of the low price, but was soon dissapointed to find myself feeling very nickel and dimed…First off, the ticket purchasing process was a hassle, and my boyfriend and I were buying tickets together on our laptops and realized 80% of the way through our purchasing process we had to pay extra to sit together, check our bags (which I know is common), and then, to make matters worse, once we were on the flight, when the beverage and snack cart came through, we found out that we would have to PAY even more for everything, including WATER!

    I say, cheers to any airline who makes flying a fun, relaxing and easy experience, and is upfront about what it will truly cost to fly with them.

  6. Sounds like we have a lot of Virgin American fans already, as well as many who want to get a taste of the Virgin experience!

    David, I am going to bet you lunch that you will prefer Virgin over United. Can’t wait to hear your report when you get back!

    Chelsea and Garry, definitely report back when you fly Virgin for the first time!

  7. Virgin Atlantic is equally classy. United, British Airways, and Virgin all do direct flights from Dulles to Heathrow three times a day, but Virgin is the only sane option. Their booking system is better, their customer service is helpful, they never try to strike on Christmas (British Airways flight attendants have put me off that airline forever), the wing never catches on fire over Iceland (great quality control from United), and they have more movies. No brainer.

  8. I just booked a ticket for my mom to come and visit us in May. We got a crazy deal on Virgin America – non-stop, roundtrip from the West Coast for $259! I can’t wait for her to experience Virgin Air!

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  10. Now I’m super-stoked for my trip next week. LAX – MCO & back for just under $220 all-in seemed almost too good to be true… & now I get to look forward to free TV & a power outlet! Kudos, Virgin America.

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