Silicon Valley-based airline Virgin America and networking app Here On Biz have teamed up to launch what they call the first in-flight social network, which will be found on all of Virgin America's domestic flights by the end of February.
The effort targets "a growing following of always-connected, tech-forward business travelers" who can download the Here On Biz app for free from iTunes before their flights and register for accounts using their LinkedIn profiles.
Social in the Sky
The Here On Biz app allows users with Apple devices to see which business professionals are nearby and enables them to chat with those they are connected to on their flights, on other Virgin America flights in the air or with travelers at their destination. The app provides the real-time location of a user's contacts via LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, as well as those in the user's address book who use the app, the airline says.
The partnership takes advantage of Here On Biz's geo-location technology, Virgin America's Gogo In-Flight WiFi network, and APIs that identify an aircraft's location in the air, Virgin America says.
From February to July, travelers on all domestic Virgin America flights can access the Here On Biz app for free through the Gogo network. In addition, app users can manage their privacy settings, so that travelers can shut off or limit their visible connections to others on board or to people within their own network, a Virgin America rep notes.
The move comes from an airline that says it was the first major U.S. carrier to offer Wi-Fi fleetwide and notes its power outlets at every seat enable more than one-third of its customers to regularly log on during its more popular long-haul flights.
According to the rep, the partnership allows the airline to respond to a desire that some of its most frequent travelers had identified in a 2013 survey, which was the ability to network in-flight with other flyers.
"Our Virgin America guests tend to be a very entrepreneurial and connected bunch who are loyal to us in no small part because of the business-friendly amenities, including in-flight WiFi available on all of our flights," the rep writes in an email.
While Virgin America says it thinks this initiative will be most attractive to business travelers, any traveler who has downloaded the app and has a LinkedIn profile can participate.
In addition, Virgin America has also launched a Twitter promotion that invites flyers to share their dream business travel connection and describe how they would break the ice in 140 characters using the hashtag #PlanePitch.
Virgin America is a U.S.-controlled and operated airline and is a separate company from Virgin Atlantic. Founder Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group is a minority share investor in Virgin America.
Meanwhile, Virgin Atlantic is introducing Google Glass technology "to enhance customers' travel experiences and improve efficiency" after publishing a study of 10,000 airline passengers that showed the experience of flying as lessened in recent decades.
In a trial at London's Heathrow Airport for six weeks, the effort targets what the airline calls its Upper Class passengers. When they arrive at the airport, they will be greeted by staff wearing the technology to start the check-in process. Virgin Atlantic says staff will also be able to update passengers on the latest flight information, as well as weather and local events at their destinations and translate any foreign language information.
In the future, Virgin Atlantic says the technology could also tell staff their passengers' dietary and refreshment preferences - "anything that provides a better and more personalized service."
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Lisa Lacy is senior staff writer at ClickZ. In addition to ClickZ, her work has appeared in The Huffington Post, The Luxury Spot, LearnVest, MarthaStewart.com, GoodHousekeeping.com, amNewYork, and The Wall Street Journal. She's a graduate of Columbia's School of Journalism.
March 19, 2014