Virgin America’s Customer Experience
17 Sep 2008

Virgin America’s Customer Experience

17 Sep 2008

From mood lighting, to an exhaustive entertainment system, to reasonable fares and good service, there is a lot that Virgin America is doing right. I recently flew the airline, and was taken aback by the attention to detail and the luxury experience that VA has created. I flew on their 1 year anniversary so there were added perks such as red cake and champagne at my destination. These are beyond the differentiators that the company highlights, but exemplary of the company’s outlook–it’s about the experience.

Inside a Virgin America plane:

Think about it, not many people like flying anymore–it’s a hassle, so why not try to beat the competition based on a pleasing experience? This is what is lacking industry-wide . With no regard for people’s time or the respect for customers. Many of my past flying experiences have been horrendous: being shuttled from place-to-place, delayed with no explanation or lies, and in general disregarded. Take for example, JetBlue’s fall from grace .

So it was a pleasant surprise to take this trip on Virgin America and be entertained, on time and appreciated. Although mood lighting may not be everyone’s cup of tea, the comfortable seating and the entertainment system, Red, are certainly crowd-pleasers. The user interface of the Red entertainment system is quite good as well. It’s a touch interface with seat controls:

Seat controls include a full QWERTY keyboard to accommodate search, gaming and future seat-to-seat chat:

I only used the controls for a brief time, and can say this could be significantly improved. The touch screen worked very well but as fatigue set in to the arm, I wished the seat controls were easier.

The main menu for the system is very simple, and the choices for music are great allowing for browsing by genres and artist:

 

Unfortunately the watch portion (TV and video) was not functioning while I was taking these pictures, but they handled these cases and were forthright that there may be bugs and interruptions ahead of time:

 

Overall, the menu system was done very well and I think the use of visuals and iconography are effective. The only confusing part I found was in the modality of the main toolbar at the bottom of the screen. Sometimes it let me get to the main menu, media and playlists and other times no. It was hard to anticipate which state I was in.

Full menu options:

Main toolbar:

Toolbar with map (which was hidden under “Info/help”; would have like this better labeled)

Another great touch is the personality that the airline has injected into its safety video . It was actually funny and I think I will pay attention more every time I fly with them. Here are a couple photos and quotes:

“for the .001% of you who haven’t used a seatbelt, here’s how it works….

“We promise to do everything we can to make sure you have a safe and comfortable flight; not least of which is ending this speech now”

From a customer experience, I like what this company is doing, and from a brand perspective, I think what they’ve done is genius. For more pictures and reactions see Boing Boing’s first write-up on the airline .

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