Mood lights on at new Virgin America site

Virgin America's quirky, clean new home page (Virgin America)

Virgin America’s quirky, clean new home page (Virgin America)

At 10:00 p.m. last night Virgin America began the process of switching over to its newly redesigned website. Today the mood-lit carrier is turning on the lights at the new VirginAmerica.com with a whole new look and feel for a faster, smoother and more intuitive booking experience.

Carefully avoiding quick website switchover headaches that are all too common in the airline industry, Virgin has been testing and gathering feedback about the new site with a few thousand guinea pigs since May 22. Beta-testers included frequent traveling Google employees as well as some high-ranking members of Virgin’s Elevate frequent flyer program.

DisclosureIt’s interesting that Google travelers were some of the first testers…that’s because the new Virgin site reminds me a lot of the Google site. It’s uncluttered, clean, intuitive…and fun. And sorta gamey. For example, users interact with 12 cartoonish avatars that remind me of the daily Google doodle. Plus, the instructions that lead users through the booking process are cheeky and fun.

Why did Virgin America build the brand new site? “We’ve had the same website since we opened seven years ago, and it was time for an update,” said Luanne Calvert, Virgin’s head of Marketing (who spent a few years at Google.) “When creating the new site, we wanted to break out of the mold of typical airline booking sites, so we looked to popular e-commerce sites like Apple.com or Amazon.com, not other airline sites, for inspiration,” she said.

Virgin Avatar

Unlike other airline sites, which ask for a lot of information up front, and then ask you to hit the “book” button, Virgin’s new site pulls you through the booking process, having you complete the process one easy step at a time. First timers will notice that it’s different than what they are used to, but after you’ve done it a few times, its easy, intuitive, and pretty fun. Try it, you’ll like it!

Another thing you’ll quickly notice about the site is its modern, responsive design—which means it appears and works the same across all your devices like your laptop, tablet or phone.

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It’s also very well thought out. For example, not everyone uses electronic boarding passes—according to data provided by Virgin, the national average is only 10% but Virgin’s tech savvy fliers go mobile 13% of the time. Like me, most probably store boarding passes on their phone, but carry along a paper one just in case their phone goes on the fritz in the security line. Virgin’s new “back pocket boarding pass” folds to a size that fits in your back pocket, with all necessary check in info on one quarter panel—no clumsy unfolding necessary when the screener wants to scan it. They even created a Vine video to show it off.

One question I hear frequently from TravelSkills readers is, “When is Virgin going to get a mobile app?” Calvert responds: “We’ve been planning an app, but with the new site, we are wondering what more an app could do that the site does not? The site’s new responsive design acts just like an app on mobile devices.”

Have you tried booking a flight on Virgin America’s new site yet? Take a look and let us know what you think!

–Chris McGinnis

Disclosure: Virgin America is a sponsor of TravelSkills. Its support, and yours, help keep TravelSkills running as a free website providing quality content to frequent travelers. 

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