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Virgin Airlines: Is the Experience All It’s Cracked Up to Be? Part 2

In the first part of this blog, I discussed Virgin America’s airline perks and speculated whether or not they’d live up to the high expectations once I traveled with them. Here, I’ll reveal my findings! Drumroll, please…

Flying Virgin America was everything that it was hyped up to be. They did, in fact, make flying fun again! It was the least stressful flight experience I have ever had.

So, how did they make ME — the customer (who is the reason the economic pistons pump) — feel like I am important?

Pre-Flight:

First of all, Virgin allowed me to pick my seat and check in at a kiosk without having to stand in line. They had a representative standing by to assist us with any questions or concerns. My group and I weren’t able to get seats together, so we decided to try our luck at the counter instead in case there was something we weren’t seeing. My thoughts were a little uneasy, because usually anyone working in an airport has an annoyed, militant, “get away from me” look on their face. However, we walked right up to the counter, and what do you know…we got service with a smile AND they were able to find us seats together in the emergency exit row! They even piped in some fresh beats out of their computers to make us feel like rock stars.

That's a lot of color for basic $2 earphones!

That's a lot of color for basic $2 earphones!

Then, instead of trying to force my bag into the darn luggage rack to see if will fit, a Virgin rep was standing by to give a thumbs up or a thumbs down. Mine just barely made it, and all the lady said was, “Oooh, you are very good! Don’t worry.” Whew!

When we got to our terminal, it was very relaxed and low-key. Due to the fullness of our flight, Virgin offered passengers the option to check their luggage for free and board early in exchange for the mild inconvenience (many people took them up on this offer and seemed thrilled). The terminal had everything we needed, including a station where we could buy a pair of FLASHY $2 headphones (each in a My Little Pony assortment of colors) for the trip. While we boarded the plane, we were greeted with smiling faces and totally swank purple mood lighting! Immediately, I felt at ease!

In-Flight:

You haven’t seen anything yet! Virgin Airlines’ real fun begins once you are aboard the plane. When I was seated, I noticed a small touch screen in front of me and that was already on and free to use as soon as I was ready. Virgin made it so cool for passengers to have their very own in-flight personal entertainment systems at the fingertips! I wasn’t forced to watch whatever bland movie the airline chose; instead, I watched all of Thursday’s NBC line-up and a Big Bang Theory marathon! Not to mention, I could have purchased a new movie off a huge list that they had! There were plenty of music videos and channel after channel of entertainment. Plus, I could do seat-to-seat chat with another Virgin passenger using the provided remote/keypad (all I needed was the seat number).

Are we there yet? Virgin's touch screen map can tell!

Are we there yet? Virgin's touch screen map can tell!

As if that wasn’t enough, Virgin also provided us with the option to see exactly where we were on a map — throughout the entire trip. Hitting the “Map” button on the touch screen took me to a map of the United States, complete with a plane icon to track the progress of the flight. I could see how fast the plane was going, the altitude, the remaining mileage, and even the outside temperature. So cool!

Now, on to the take off. You know the standard demonstration videos we’re required to watch before we fly? The ones you’d swear were filmed in the 1980s and still played on a worn VHS tape? They’re usually so lame and boring. Well, Virgin kicked butt at entertaining passengers with this as well! I never thought it possible to make a demonstration/emergency preparedness video funny, but it was! It is small details like this that definitely set them apart from all other airlines. Take a look for yourself:

I’ve never seen a demo video like that on other airlines I’ve flown with! Another thumbs up.

And, last but not least, Virgin delivered as promised on the refreshments. Are you ever annoyed by the food and drink cart constantly cruising by and blocking your one path to the bathroom? Virgin made things easy. We were allowed to place our drink and food orders as soon as the plane took off, and I could still order as many beverages I wanted (I had to pay for them after my free beverage, though). They only brought the drink cart by once, which meant clearer paths to the restroom. Regardless of having to pay for food and drinks, there was no delay. I typically don’t splurge on these types of things, but they made it so easy that I couldn’t help but get sucked in. If I didn’t know any better, I would’ve sworn I was being served in first class because I received my glasses of wine as soon as I ordered them!

Virgin has taken a normally mundane experience and turned it into a really fun option for travelers! I certainly felt that Virgin America made me, the consumer, feel important. By redesigning the flight experience with ALL passengers in mind (not just first class), I felt like I was really on vacation…starting with the flight!

So, because of all the things I’ve mentioned, Virgin America gets 10 out 10 outstanding points for their commitment to creating a great flight experience! Perhaps you can apply the attention to detail that Virgin does to your business! Here’s how:

  1. Give Your Clients Choices — Virgin allows passengers to choose their seats at a self-serve kiosk or by speaking with a real person. They provide a large number of refreshment choices as well as hours of entertainment. Choices are good! Give people an option and they’ll feel more at ease (not to mention, they’ll feel like they’re in control of the situation).
  2. Find Out What Drives People Crazy — Most airlines force passengers to watch a one-size-fits-all program and a boring instructional video, block the bathrooms with food carts, and make people feel like they’re on a prison ship — but not Virgin! Discover what your customers hate about the competition and then find a way to deliver the opposite.
  3. Deliver What You Promise — Common sense, I know. But it’s a necessary strategy if you want people to buy what you’re selling. Don’t make a million promises you can’t keep; instead, try making a handful of promises that you CAN keep! And then…deliver.

Have you ever flown with Virgin Airlines? Did you also immensely enjoy your experience? Let me know what you think!

Image credit to El Caganer, thentoff, and kingair42.


Serenity Morris

Serenity is on the support staff for Quality Logo Products. Cynical and straight to the point, this no-nonsense gal is loveable and passionate about her various nerdy interests. When she is not geeking out about music, British television, and politics she is usually doodling her troubles away! Her artistic abilities are often commissioned for internal and external QLP promotional materials. You can also connect with Serenity on Google+.

Comments

  1. Virgin Airlines: Is the Experience All It’s Cracked Up to Be? Part 1

    [...] Airlines experience really one to remember, or is it just really good advertising? Stay tuned for Part Two, because I’ll have a full report after I actually travel with Virgin!Have you ever flown with [...]

  2. Jen

    I flew Virgin America on my last trip to CA, and it was great. They also checked my bag for free and let me on the plane with the first class passengers. It was so nice to not have to lug my bag on the plane. I was a bit disappointed we didn’t get a free snack and I wasn’t about to pay $8 for a cheese and crackers snack box. But over all it was a great flight, and I loved the personal touch screen t.v.!

    • Cybernetic SAM

      I know the prices for stuff was kind of expensive, but I rationalized it like I was going somewhere fancy, I spend the same amount of money when I go to bars etc.. and it is not often I get to have actual fun on a plane so I said “ta’ heck with it, I’m on vacation!” and I very much enjoyed it!

  3. Jaimie Smith

    This was a great post, Sam! I am glad you had a great experience with Virgin Airlines. It has convinced me to most likely take them when I go to Vegas next. Some people get really freaked out when Flying, but it takes an airline like this to make it more of a calming situation.

    • Cybernetic SAM

      Thanks Jaimie! I absolutely agree! I usually have really bad anxiety on Planes but not at all on this trip! It was awesome! I would definitely recommend Virgin!

  4. Candice J.

    They sound like a great airline. I can’t wait till they open up to more airports and destinations so I can have the chance to fly them on family vacations. It seems like with all those amenities it would be a great addition to flying with a young child. All those lights, tvs, and distractions. I’m sure they can keep her busy and entertained the entire flight and I can stay relaxed as well. Sounds like a WIN/WIN to me! Glad you enjoyed your trip!

    • Cybernetic SAM

      Oh yes it is VERY kid friendly! Mommies and daddies can watch their own stuff while there is an endless list of kids’ channels and they sell on the menu child snacks and juice boxes!

  5. Rachel

    Happy to hear that Virgin lived up to your expectations, Sam. :) I’ve gone from not knowing they had terminals in Chicago to seriously considering them next time I go on a vacation. Thanks for sharing your experiences!

    • Cybernetic SAM

      No problem! Yeah I feel like a walking ad I keep recommending them to EVERYONE! They were pretty great!

  6. Mandy Kilinskis

    The next time that I go somewhere that Virgin flies to, I’m definitely going to give their airline a try. I generally stick to Southwest (not exciting, but free checked luggage makes me happy), but I’m definitely open to trying something new!

    I’m glad that you had a nice time on your flight!!

    • Cybernetic SAM

      Yeah I have flown pretty much everything from American to Virgin now, and I am completely pleased with Virgin! if I have to fly and Virgin can take me, you bet I am going that route!

  7. Amy Swanson

    I’m so glad you had a terrific experience with Virgin Airlines, Sam! I know you’re a nervous flier like me, so knowing that you could do it and get through it AND have a positive experience makes me more willing to try them the next time I have to fly :)

    Great job on both parts, Sam! It was really interesting reading your perceptions of what to expect (part 1) and then the actual experience (part 2). Very cool!

    • Cybernetic SAM

      Thanks! Yeah I was panicking b/c on the way there I was all alone and I was freakin’, but then I used their tablet and found an amazing distraction. The captain was very informative and polite, not to mention with the interactive map I felt like I had a little bit more reassurance! It was awesome!

  8. Joseph Giorgi

    Glad to hear that your Virgin airlines experience was a pleasant one. Next time I fly, I’ll be sure to opt for them.

    Great post, Sam!

    • Cybernetic SAM

      Oh I will make sure it is the only way we fly if we have that option! You would love it!

  9. Jill Tooley

    I LOOOOOVE Virgin Airlines! Since I was on the same flight as you, I don’t really have much else to add. ;) However, I can certainly back up your claims. I’ve never had a god-awful airline experience, but I have had some crappy ones, and this was completely different. I’ve been recommending them like crazy, too!

    I’d also like to add that the chickpea wrap I bought on the way home was DELISH. I expected some tiny, shriveled sandwich but instead I got a full-size wrap that looked like it’d just been made. It was worth it! And I did love the free ginger ale.

    Virgin gets another 10/10 from me! :D

    • Cybernetic SAM

      I know exactly what you mean! In a weird way even though we were in coach it did not feel like it at all!

  10. Alex Brodsky

    Cool post, Sam. I’m jealous you’ve gotten to fly them. I’ve heard great things for a couple years, but never been heading to/from a place where it was an option. Maybe soon I can make it my mission to do so. Planning a trip around an airline seems like a dumb idea, and it probably is, but I REALLY want the pre-and-post-Virgin experience!

    Also, kudos on finding the in flight video. I don’t even watch those when I’m on the plane and those things are important, but here I watched (most of) Virgin’s video, and I must say it was pretty great (the matador sitting next to the bull was pretty hilarious).

    • Cybernetic SAM

      Thanks! I think for this experience it might be kind of neat to plan a trip around a flight see where it can take and just go somewhere random you might enjoy it! The in flight video I thought was an awesome attention to detail it was the first time I was left with satisfaction having to participate in that sort of thing.

  11. Eric

    They’ve a map BUTTON? Man. JetBlue has a channel serving the same purpose (visualizing an icon of the plane over its location on the map), but you had to jam your finger into the armrest “remote control” until you fumbled your way back to the channel. Complete pain if you wanted to watch a program (or listen to music) and do the same. +1 for Virgin Air.

    However, I loves me some complimentary in-flight snacks. If they wanted to do it up right? I know Terra is a JetBlue exclusive, and it’s a very convenient way to get people to try your brand. You want chips? Have some Terra chips. You don’t like ‘em, you’re not out anything, but if you do like them, you may buy some on your own. Really simple way of promoting a brand and taking advantage of capitalizing on the limited options offered in-flight.

    Neat stuff. It’s really nice to see someone still tinkering with the system and still keeping it fresh. I know the last time I flew Southwest it felt like nothing had changed between then and the time before that. Transportation could use a little bit of a facelift here in the ‘States, especially in areas we’d like to boost business.

    • Cybernetic SAM

      I have heard more cons than pros about SW Airlines… Well I have to say I truly do hate the flying part about traveling, but Virgin made it kind of neat experience! Finally it is not just 1st class that matters anymore!

      • Eric

        Seriously. Those blue potato chips rock. Virgin should get on that.

  12. Jeff Porretto

    How is this company not bigger?!?!? Shouldn’t THEY be the gold standard?? Gawd I never want to fly United, or southwest, or anybody else again! This is truly awesome stuff!

    Side Note: The thumbs up/down lady reminds me of an emperor at the coliseum determining whether the bag lives or not =]

    • Cybernetic SAM

      I know I think that they should indeed be more of a widespread company. However, I think that because they are literally setting new standards for flight commuting. I think other companies should and probably will start taking initiative from them, they may not be able to achieve it but it is worth setting a new trend.

  13. How to Choose Business Partners Carefully: Benefits and Drawbacks of Co-Branding

    [...] s1.parentNode.insertBefore(s, s1); })();With all of our talk of Virgin Airlines here at QLP, you’d think that we secretly worked for them or something. Rest assured, we [...]

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