Ever since airline restrictions on electronic devices were loosened, it's been a free-for-all. First airlines suggested that phone calls might be allowed — completely unacceptable — and now Virgin America is launching a social network for passengers to befriend each other on board.
Virgin is using Here On Biz, an iOS app that finds business colleagues near you, to help travelers find LinkedIn connections who are on the same flight, or even in the same airport. Instead of striking up a conversation with your seatmates to find out if you're all heading to the same conference, you can get straight to work by opening the app and start networking before you even land. The app also finds connections on other Virgin flights.
Apparently, in-flight networking was a common request from passengers when Virgin surveyed its Elevate members — frequent flyers — last year.
"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," Virgin America chief marketing officer Luanne Calvert said in the app announcement. "We've heard many stories of partnerships and start-up ideas being born on our flights."
Geolocation apps are the new hotness, but typically those apps are more focused on finding hookups than the serious business of advancing your career. This is also the first time geolocation has been used in the air — Virgin said the Here On Biz app uses APIs that can pinpoint a plane's location.
Normally you have to pay to use the Gogo in-flight Wi-Fi available on all Virgin flights, but the airline is letting domestic travelers access the app on board for free until July to encourage usage. Virgin is also kicking off a "Network on the Fly" sale to promote the social network.
The Here On Biz app rolls out on all Virgin America flights by the end of the month.
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