Virgin America uses location-based social network Loopt to promote new routes | September 9, 2010

We recently reported how airlines, airports and hotels are experimenting with the latest social media phenomenon, geo-social networks such as Foursquare. For example, Air New Zealand rewards Foursquare ‘mayors’ of the 12 regional airports in its network with free access to its lounge. 

Virgin America recently used location-based rewards network Loopt Star to draw attention to its new routes to Mexico. On 1 January 2011, the airline will start non-stop flights from San Francisco (SFO) to Cabo and from Los Angeles (LAX) to Cancun. In addition to a three-day fare sale, Virgin America on 31 August offered people who used Loopt Star to virtually check in at SFO and LAX airports and two taco trucks in LA and San Francisco, two tickets to Mexico for the price of one, while supplies last. The taco trucks also offered two-for-one tacos for USD1. 

To promote the offer both brands notified their Twitter followers and Facebook ‘likers’ via posts and tweets and generated an enormous buzz (video here). “By 11 a.m., we had hundreds of people already in line. We had a bride-to-be who was going to honeymoon in Cancun who came down to check in. We had whole groups of college-aged folks spilling out of minivans saying, ‘We all heard about this and we’re going to get our tickets for Spring Break [2011],'” said Alice Lankester, VP of marketing for Virgin America. In San Francisco, 1,300 people checked in, and 80 percent of those people have already bought tickets on Virgin America for flights. According to the airline, the Loopt promotion helped make it the fifth highest sales day in its history. Loopt has more than four million users, despite the fact that it is covered far less often than the smaller Foursquare.

Virgin America’s Loopt campaign was the carrier’s first foray into geo-social marketing and builds on a similar effort on Twitter, which was the only medium it used to announce the launch of its Toronto service in April. Virgin America also teamed up with social media ranking website Klout to give away free tickets to social media influentials in order to let them review the new route. 

For more on how airlines and other companies in the travel industry are using social media to connect with their customers, we recommend this excellent recent overview by USA Today. 

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