Virgin America Launches In-Flight Social Network

by , Feb 12, 2014, 12:49 PM
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Are you one of those people who loves to strike up conversations with fellow passengers while flying -- to learn about other people’s lives, to sample the great American melting pot through our random seat assignments?
 
Me, neither. But people who match that painfully gregarious profile can now find people they actually have something in common with -- namely, professional connections -- thanks to Virgin America. It has created a social network for Virgin passengers using Here On Biz, a social proximity app for iOS that integrates LinkedIn with location data.

The new Virgin network works in flight, but also for airports. LinkedIn members must download the Here On Biz app to be visible on the network, so nobody will find you if you don’t want them to.
 
While I personally am not a big plane-talker, it’s easy to imagine using the Virgin network to, say, find out if anyone on your plane is going to the same MediaPost conference as you. (For propriety’s sake, we will pretend that this is solely about forging professional connections, but other potential use cases are not hard to find.)
 
Virgin is promoting the app with free in-flight WiFi access through July, as well as a special “Network on the Fly” sale with discounts tied to the network. Virgin America chief marketing officer Luanne Calvert stated: “Given our home in Silicon Valley and network of tech-focused cities, as well as the fact that our guests often choose us because they need to stay connected via our fleetside Wi-Fi, it makes sense. We’ve heard many stories of partnerships and start-up ideas being born on our flights.”
 
Virgin isn’t the only airline focusing on the intersection of air travel and social media.

Back in September 2013, Qantas began using technology that allows it to monitor social media conversations in airport lounges. The technology, created by Australian start-up Local Measure, uses geo-location data to pick up social conversations even if the passenger doesn’t mention Qantas by name — as long as they share their whereabouts by activating automatic location sharing.

The airline is using information collected by Local Measure for its content marketing strategy, but the data is also useful for customer service and facilities maintenance. To that end, Qantas is giving lounge managers direct access to the Local Measure feed, although only the social media team can post responses online.
 
In March 2012, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines announced a new program that allows passengers to upload information from their Facebook and LinkedIn profiles and match themselves up with other ticketholders in seating arrangements.

Passengers who opt in to the “Meet and Seat” program choose what kind of information they want to share, and are only able to view information from other passengers who have opted in. The information is presented by overlaying profiles on airplane seating charts. Once the chooser has selected a seatmate, the seatmate receives a message with a link to the chooser’s profile.

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