SJS Press January 2012

During the Great Recession most airlines have cut service an amenities to remain solvent. Planes are packed with passengers who have been nickel and dimed for every air travel amenity. From checked bag fees to peanutless flights, the days of the glamourous skies are flying into aviation's past. With this stripped down travel experience, all carriers are beginning to look the same. One airline has sought to defy this trend. Startup airline Virgin America heads toward its fifth year of taking "hip" to flight. The Press rides along.

How does an airline stand out from the others while remaining a viable business? A pioneer in the Virgin America business tells The Press "We had to redefine everything about air travel. We started with renaming every component, job, and revenue stream. For example, we used empowering words to title our flight attendants In-flight Team Members! Customers are not passengers. They are our Guests! We know this is part of the foundation for our unique flying brand. The money will come later." This philosophy may seem to push the limits to those not in a Virgin state of mind. Team building exercises have been christened "orgies". A new hire describes her training. "We had an orgy down at the Virgin Village. I was nervous at first, but the other team members made me feel part of the group! Every day here is a Virgin day!" With this enthusiam, The Press wonders if team members ever receive a Virgin Day Off. " I don't know what to think," a Press writer states. "They are anything but Virgin-like, yet they do have a new way of doing things."

virginfingersVirgin America's marketing team is at the forefront of convincing potential passengers to buy tickets on this new bohemian airline. V-tonguingOne of the tools they employ is the Virgin brand founder, Sir Richard Branson. "We make some really neat posters, but we like to use Dick for maximum exposure," says one advertising intern. "We made our own hand sign that represents victory for this startup. It soon morphed into a clever Virgin America code. Sir Dick elevated it a step further. He wanted to add emphasis by adding some tongue. He felt it would really get people's attention." The inovating sign, known as V-tonguing, shocks and inspires as the Virgin brand has done since its inception. It is one of the many ways Virgin America is inovating like no other airline has before.

cushycabinThrough this inovation, Virgin has attracted all types of people to fly on its new airline. Once a passenger, err customer, ahem Guest! gets used to Virgin America's modern, hipster vocabulary and signings, he will see that there is even more air travel reinvention. A walk down the jetway and into a Virgin America cabin reveals the latest in airplane interior design. A Virgin America team member says, "Our cabins are revealing indeed!" referencing the black lit cabin. cushdidit"It reminds me of my favorite show; CSI. Or perhaps what I wouldn't want to see in my hotel room." The interior known as "The Cushy Cabin", a tribute to Virgin America CEO David Cush, certainly shows that there is more than meets the eye when riding cross country on Virgin America.

In addition to its new take on interior cabin lighting, the seats highlight the Virgin America travel experience. "The seats are so comfortable that I ask for the middle seat!" complements a guest. "The plastic white seatback makes me want to use the toilet, but I always thought that watching TV in the loo would be nice. Maybe they'll put some in their lavs!" Amenities such as this could put Virgin America on a separate playing field from its competitors, but it appears that it has enough edge for now. virginseatAnother guest has a similar thought. "I'm not sure about watching televison in an airplane lavatory, but those seatbacks do make me want to piddle. Luckily they don't give you a SkyMall or inflight magazine in their seatback pocket or I would feel too at home and end up relieving myself right there in the seat."

Virgin America goes further than fancy seat accomodations and mood lighting. It also employs a stylish fashion sense when it comes to team member apparel. One of the leading designer states " We want to show that we have integrity. When not so virgin women get married, they will still wear white. We don't want to fool anyone. We aren't virgins in this business. What's so virgin about pilots who have already been through the wringer at airline dumps like US Airways? Some of these guys have been in the business for 20 years! Therefore, we stick with black attire"

The Press pondered the hypocrisy of Virgin America's claim of newness. However, it did not take long to see that claim hold true. A Press writer on a Virgin America flight explains, "I didn't see the goatees and Buddy Holly glasses like you see on JetBlue pilots, but the Virgin old timers and newbies alike are sporting skinny jeans and all the other staples of an SJS pilot." A middle aged Virgin America pilot, gazing into his compact mirror, pleads "I might be one of the older guys, but I sport hair gel and ipods like the best of them. Who said a greying pilot couldn't wear a backpack?!"

The SJS looks that the pilots diplay tend to create confusion when distinguishing themselves from other Virgin America personnel. A guest explains, "They all look alike. Stewardesses, gate agents, and pilots. I can't even tell if they work for an airline or a restaurant sometimes. I mean is that a gate agent or a waiter?! A pilot or a flight attendant?! I can't figure it out!"

fishfreighterEvery new idea and foray into the airline business usually has their critics. Virgin America has no exceptions. Probable Alaska Airlines pilot and interweb message board combatant, Fishfreighter, has anything but accolades for the carrier. "What most pilots with SJS don't understand is the damage they do to the profession when they go to work for an outfit like Virgin..." Fishfreighter's web presence is indeed a consistent reminder of the power of SJS; Shiny Jet Syndrome. Whether jealous of a Virgin America Airbus' sheen or concerned of shiny jet competition, Fishfreighter shows that new entrants are not always welcome in the industry.

Even to the critics the quality of the Virgin America product appears to go deeper than what you can see on the surface. While staring at their aircraft's exterior, a pilot quickly realizes why sunglasses were invented. "I don't know what they are doing over there at Virgin, but that is one shiny jet!" says a pilot of Brand X Airline. Airbuses have typically shown a high level of shininess, yet Virgin America has taken it to a new level. An investigator at The Press of has discovered the secret. "They put small flakes of mica into their white paint. Sounds like a subtle difference to a regular airline paint scheme. However, this small difference makes a big impact. If a pilot were to look directly at a Virgin America Airbus, he might give up his international heavy job and his life savings to fly for them." This finding has The Press wondering if Virgin America is trying to reinvent Shiny Jet Syndrome.

If you are looking at the fast track to an Airbus captain slot in addition to out of this world benefits and seniority, The Press asks you to apply yourself and some hair gel while following the link below. Study the information and apply to Virgin America today. A shiny jet is on your horizon!

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