Virgin America raises the bar (again) with new IFE features

Virgin America has upgraded its ‘Red’ in-flight entertainment system with a number of innovative features, including the first ever seatback digital shopping platform, an open tab service, and Google Maps with terrain view. Already on Virgin America, passengers can use the IFE system to watch live satellite television, chat with other passengers, play 3D games such as Doom, and offset carbon emissions for their flight. Passengers can also purchase snacks, meals, and alcoholic beverages from their seats via Red. Flight attendants receive the orders via a tablet PC and bring the ordered items to the seat. 

The boutique airline is the first U.S carrier to eliminate the traditional Skymall print shopping catalogues, moving it to the seatback screen instead. Called ‘The Red Store’, passengers will be able to buy a range of products – some unique to Virgin America – via the touch-screen display or the Qwerty keyboard in the armrest. Products range from the Sony PSP to the latest Michael Kors tote, and shoppers also earn ‘Elevate’ frequent flyer points. To pay, passengers swipe their credit card through the reader in the IFE system and their purchases are delivered to their home or destination address seven days later.

To further increase ancillary revenues per passenger, Virgin America also created a new ‘open tab’ function on the IFE system. Passengers only have to swipe their credit card once per flight to order food, drinks, and anything else available via Red. The tab will stay open until a passenger closes it, or until the aircraft descends and reaches 10,000 feet at which time it will automatically be closed. 

Additionally, an enhanced Google Maps functionality now features detailed terrain view maps and eight levels of zoom functionality. The aircraft’s GPS position is shown on a Google Map, so travelers can see the actual topography over which they are flying. See this video for a demo of Red’s new functionality. 

Virgin America worked with Panasonic and software firm CoKinetic to take Red to the next level, but the ideas came from Virgin America. Maintaining control “of the top layer of the software” is critical to Virgin America, says Virgin America’s CEO David Cush. “If we were relying on CoKinetic and Panasonic to generate the ideas then everyone is going to have it. In-flight entertainment is a differentiator for us. We have creative people here, who probably think a little different than others.” 

Related articles:
ANA and Virgin America let passengers order food via IFE touchscreen
Free Wi-Fi on Virgin America flights, courtesy of Google
Air New Zealand gives its in-flight entertainment a social twist

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