Episode 008: Google Glass and Virgin Class

Rotation

Welcome to Episode 008 of the #PaxEx Podcast. Our guest is Gavin Werbeloff, a travel expert and self-described “airline industry voyeur”. He dives into data and takes a swim, and relays what he learns through OpEds for the #PaxEx Forum on Runway Girl Network as well as for our premium news product, RGN Premium.

On this week’s show we look at how Virgin Atlantic is now getting “up close and personal” with passengers, by having concierges at its Upper Class lounge at Heathrow wear Google Glass. Is this a gimmick or is Virgin Atlantic really onto something here? Has ‘Big Brother’ officially arrived, and aren’t we ‘opting in’ with our own voracious use of social media?

Our guest, Gavin, recently wrote an OpEd that references another Virgin brand, Virgin America. Gavin did some data mining, and has drawn the conclusion that Virgin America faces some very serious challenges ahead. We discuss the vast amount of premium capacity being thrown at the transcon market, and whether US majors plus JetBlue are – like a pride of lions attacking a gazelle – going in for the kill. We also talk about how both premium seating and inflight connectivity have become hugely important competitive factors, especially on transcon, and why it’s essential for Gogo’s ground to orbit (GTO) system to be flying on Virgin America soon.

Finally, we discuss two important actions involving personal electronic devices (PEDs) on board aircraft in the US. The FAA has issued a final rule disallowing pilots from using PEDs for personal use in all operations, and the House Transportation Committee has passed legislation that seeks to ban the inflight use of cell phones for voice calls. We highlight how pilots are using inflight Wi-Fi for their own personal use, despite prohibitions. And we consider whether or not airlines should have the choice to offer mobile connectivity to passengers, just as foreign carriers do (Lufthansa is now expanding its mobile connectivity offering; the carrier offers text messaging and data, but has switched off voice functionality).

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