headset 3

Image via Virgin Atlantic.

APEX Insight: Earlier in the year, Qantas debuted virtual-reality headsets, offering passengers a sneak peek of the Qantas lounges awaiting them at the other end of their journey. Now Virgin Atlantic is taking that concept a bit further, using VR to sell its Upper Class experience to people who haven’t yet booked a ticket.

Imagine you’re stepping out of your office for lunch, and there in the lobby you meet the Virgin Atlantic equivalent of Dom Cobb, who has just shown up with an Inception-style briefcase. He whips out a virtual-reality headset and you put it on. Suddenly you’re experiencing VIP check-in at Heathrow, then a bit of relaxation in Virgin’s Heathrow Clubhouse, and finally a taste of what life is like in the Upper-Class cabin itself; all in 360-degree hi-res video.

Whoah. You just experienced Ida, a term Virgin Atlantic coined for “Immersive Digital Adventure” (as opposed to “Ida wanna fly coach anymore”).

“Ultimately, we wanted to create an engaging experience that meets business travelers where they are during their work day.” – Olivia Gall, Virgin Atlantic

“The Virgin Atlantic sales team will use this experience with business customers and can take this experience to our corporate clients’ offices, on the road at trade shows, and potentially use it in high-traffic areas during the workday, like corporate lobby locations,” said Olivia Gall, corporate communications specialist for Virgin Atlantic. “Ultimately, we wanted to create an engaging experience that meets business travelers where they are during their work day, whether they’re walking to their office or grabbing lunch, the goal is to surprise and delight them and show them how they can fly in style.”


To bring Ida to life, Virgin teamed with Microsoft: the experience is delivered via a Windows 10 universal app. A Windows phone or Windows 10 tablet can be inserted into a third-party VR headset to create the immersive experience; or you can just view the presentation on the device itself.

Ida is not Virgin’s first partnership with Microsoft, noted Gall: “For example, last holiday season we worked with them to gift every passenger on a flight from London to Boston right before Christmas with Microsoft tablets, so they could live-track Santa’s sleigh and chat with him midair. Then, using a little magic (and Microsoft projectors), we had Santa’s sleigh land on the roof of the plane, which passengers could watch through “glass panels on the ceiling” before he came on board and greeted everyone.”

Gall said that every Virgin Atlantic passenger is considered a VIP; but Upper Class service includes chauffeur service to and from the airport, champagne service, fully-equipped loans and lie-flat beds. It’s not called “Upper Class” for nothing: LHR-JFK round-trip with chauffeur service would cost roughly £4,800 ($7,300). Ida empowers Virgin’s sales team to turn those high-end concepts into an experience, rather than a list of nouns; as well as gather data to generate and pursue leads. Reuben Arnold, SVP Marketing and Customer Experience said in a press release, “Our people are our magic element and it’s incredibly important for us to find technology solutions to supercharge them to deliver an even better experience.”