The Virgin brand of airlines are renowned for doing things a little bit different to everyone else, and nowhere is this more obvious than their app!
Virgin America App
It’s fair to say Virgin America (VX) were a bit late to the idea of a smart phone app for their customers, but as the saying goes “if you’re going to be late; then be fashionably late!”. And Virgin have done just that!
With the beta for mobile only made live in 2016, most other airlines had nearly a 10 year head start, but as they only began operating as airline in 2007, there is a little bit of room for forgiveness!
The ethos behind the VX app is to deliver a very streamlined, easy to use service that would help you do what you need, without any of the additional distractions. All of which sounded good to me until I tried to book my flights!
Firstly, as always and as I would recommend, I signed up to their Frequent Flier program, Elevate (soon to be Alaska Mileage Plan), so they and the app would have my details and preferences. Once past this small admin task I wanted to do one thing; book a return ticket from San Francisco to Las Vegas, one of the shorter routes on their network. No big ask of a modern-day app I hear you say! No such luck.
My first real engagement with the app and it wants to direct me to their website to handle the booking! But credit where it is due , the website is mobile friendly, loaded quickly and maintained the bright, bold and minimal feel of the app. Everything about the experience is for ease of use and this is where some, more frequent travellers, might feel concerned.
I found the app so minimal, I was worried I had missed something and I spend more time than most in these apps! But it was that frequency I was used too that was causing the issues. Once I accepted the app as it was….. I was flying!
Every action item you need, or may require, to change is identifiable in clearly marked boxes making it a very easy experience for even the most novice of App users when making a large purchase via a mobile device!
You are kept on the web-based tool throughout the booking process so it is best to only start a booking when you are on WiFi or have a good cell connection. Yes, the portal is easy to use but if you lose connection your active booking will time out, and you’ll need to start again!
Once you have completed your booking you are presented with a clear page to confirm your booking details. This is probably one of the best confirmation screens I have been presented with! No unimportant information is included. Just the details you need and no images to distract you.
After the booking is completed, you are prompted to update the flight alerts page. For whatever reason (cost?) VX only allow for a US based cell number to be included, everyone else needs to make do with an email. Which means having your data roaming turned on, something many choose not to do!
However fear not, once your booking has synced to your account, and the app, you can turn on notifications on your smart phone, and receive the updates via this method.
Now that you have completed, and paid for, your booking it will show in the App. Immediately you will notice a difference, as gone are the minimal white pages of the booking process, and in come the bold bright colours and icons of the normal VX website – and it works really well! But there is a surprise for you!
VX have teamed up with Spotify to provide you with a specifically designed playlist for your destination! If you are not already a Spotify account holder you will need to download the free app (Android | iOS). For non Spotify members there will be ads during the playlist and for members it will be ad free. All playlists can be streamed, free of charge, while in the air!
Sadly, shortly after this review is published, Virgin America will complete their move to Alaska Airlines. This was always slated to be by the end of April 2018!
But I wanted to review and get this done before the cut off as the VX app is brilliant! Which is a huge statement from me as I have never had a great experience with any of the Virgin airline brands.
The simplicity of the booking process is just right, and the minimal approach to each screen is what suits every type of traveller, even if it does take a moment to accept! Then it is followed by the quirky bright celebration pages within the app once you have made the booking.
Although we will be saying goodbye to VX shortly, I do hope Virgin can salvage some of this app and incorporate it into their main, Virgin Atlantic app as I doubt very much, we will see any of it surface under Alaska Airlines who have their own corporate styling to consider!