Virgin America Encourages People to Spend On Its Planes with IFE Enhancements

Virgin America

It’s a rare day when I agree with what Virgin America is doing, but I have to say that they’ve made some really strong changes to the Red inflight entertainment system. My guess is that this should help them bump up their ancillary revenues, and they desperately need that to happen.

Buy OHare Gates for Virgin America

The big change is that there is now inflight shopping via Red. It’s a natural extension when you have internet, personal screens, and a captive audience. The shopping is powered by SkyMall, so the next time you need a toilet paper iPod holder or wine glass holder necklace, you know where to go. Come on, admit it. You love flipping through the SkyMall catalog on the plane. And you know you’ve been tempted to buy something while flying but couldn’t pull the trigger because you had to wait until you hit the ground, by which time you’d already realized it was a bad idea.

But now, you won’t have to wait. And as if that’s not enough, you’ll earn frequent flier points when you buy something. Two points per dollar, so that means you’ll get 460 points when you buy that foot tanner. I believe they’ll be running a special offer as well. Buy terminal space at Chicago O’Hare, give it to the airline, and you’ll get quadruple points!

I’m still not sure why SkyMall is so compelling. Maybe it’s the thin oxygen-deprived air, but now Virgin America will help you act on your impulse. It’s about time they make Red earn its keep. Red ain’t cheap. But just in case the thin air isn’t enough to get you to open that wallet, Virgin America will help push you along by getting you drunk.

That’s right. Another feature of the new Red is an open bar tab. It’s not actually just a bar tab. Basically, anything you purchase during the flight – movies, food, drinks, etc – will go on a tab and then you swipe your card once to pay for everything. This avoids the annoyance of having to whip your card out regularly, and it will undoubtedly encourage people to spend more. Why do you think bars allow people to keep tabs? Because when you don’t pay every time, you drink more.

Drunk people + crazy shopping opportunites = ancillary revenue gold!

As Allegiant has shown quite nicely, you don’t need to make money flying airplanes as long as you can make up for it elsewhere.

[O’Hare Photo via Flickr user Incase]

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18 comments on “Virgin America Encourages People to Spend On Its Planes with IFE Enhancements

  1. What are the odds that VA would turn their aircraft into flying casinos? Their IFE offers a great platform for video style games, and as further incentive gamblers could drink for free as long as they keep pulling the proverbial lever!

    i can haz dubbol down?

  2. Cranky:

    We know you hate the business side of Virgina America. If they do not strip all services, amenities and customer service in a rush to the bottom in the name of profits, you will always wish their demise. However, have you ever flown Virgin America and if so, what do you think about their actual service?

    Do you like their layout? Their planes? Their customer service? Does their food offering give you a chubby like the Jetblue snack boxes?

  3. OMG, I want that wine glass necklace! Will make clubbing a much more enjoyable experience… but damn, they won’t ship to Alaska (why!?!)

    Btw, I haven’t seen much SkyMall activity lately.. are airlines still pushing these?

    1. I just had to send that link to Stephanie Miller, who with her broken foot is having a hard time supporting her box wine habit (“it’s not a drinking problem, it’s a drinking solution!”).

      Nate, yes they are. I am apparently entitled to a small discount, but I’ve never felt the urge. I guess SkyMall and the airline imagine droves of airline employees gleefully filling out the order forms, thereby encouraging regular passengers to do the same. Wine glass neck holders for all!

  4. VA has a 3.2 billion dollar purchase. The only have to pay for 20% of it. Over the next year till 2016 VA will have to make $40 million JUST TO PAY FOR THE PLANES ALONE. Forget anything else they need to pay for. And in another year their American investors can cash out getting more cash than they put in wheather VA makes money or not. Everytime VA has a “great revenue boost and more pax flying” they STILL don’t show a profit in their greatest times. This airline is not making any money and sinking. Good luck if you can prove otherwise.

    1. Yo Donnie,

      Chill out. When starting a business your company may not turn a profit the first year or even 5. Virgin America’s Business plan is obviously long term. In a market as embattled as the airline market is it surprising that they’re not yet turning a profit?

      Amazon took 5 years to turn a concept into a product and now its MASSIVE. Nay sayers like you would have said exactly what you just said about their start up costs 3 years in.

      1. Once again, they claim to have raised revenue and have to come up with at least $40 million a year every year until the year 2016 JUST TO PAY FOR THE PLANES.

        Please help me understand where the money is coming from. Amazon doesn’t have to buy new aircraft or deal with passengers or fuel prices as I understand.

        I like their product. I think it’s the best out there. Besides Branson’s limited he can give (cause of the ownership thing) and Investor’s likely to cash out with at least a 105% return where are the numbers.

        Just explain to me, and help me understand what I said is wrong. Not a naysayer just a realist.

        1. When the new ownership structure was put into place, the new owners were not given the same sweetheart deal that the original ones had. They do not have a guaranteed return any longer.

  5. “the next time you need a toilet paper iPod holder or wine glass holder necklace”

    LOL!! yeah no kidding, skymall is filled with so much crap that I find myself giggling alone every time I flip thru the pages during a flight…

    On another note, I flew with Virgin ONCE, quickly realized that nothing in their “amazing in flight media selection” was free. I never paid on Air Canada flights so I was pretty disappointed.


  6. Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t the merchant have to pay a transaction fee to the credit card company every time a customer pays by card? I would think the open bar tab is just a way to save on transaction fees by consolidating all the purchases into one.

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