Virgin America took flight in 2007 with strong ties to the sexy, challenger branding associated with most of Sir Richard Branson’s brainchildren. From its first flight, it stood out from other U.S. airlines for its better-than-average treatment of guests and its innovative flight experience (mood music, moodier lighting, AND the least misplaced bags last year create happy customers, it seems).
So why does a brand on top need to rethink its UX when, really, things are going well for the business? Virgin America saw room for improvement from its (now-old) dot com experience—and saw a chance to set the big goal of increasing online bookings. So the brand chucked the idea of using virginamerica.com as a marketing tool; instead, it’s now optimized to make the booking process a breeze (thereby increasing online bookings). It may be ahead of its time, but Virgin America was willing to move early so that when customers are ready to book on their phones, they’ll be ready at the gate.
But enough about the strategy—the new look and feel pushes the brand’s tone into a liveliness and creativity that strays from the brand’s sultrier side.[more]
In fact, its new website tour nails it: “With new sleek icons, modern imagery, and playful avatars you’ll hardly recognize us.” (If you click on the avatar at the top, it “accidently” will show you a selfie of its cartoon butt before moving you along. Cheeky.)
Playful is right. Pick a destination, and a bit of lightheartednes transitions you into your date options. Flying Portland to LAX? You’ll get, “We don’t like bad weather either.” NYC to Seattle? “We <3 coffee too.” It’s simple, it’s friendly, it’s non-intrusive, and it’s just the kind of fun you can appreciate when it’s part of an experience that’s completely without interruption or frustration.
By being so very bold in its rethink of the booking experience (and not shying away from the edges of where the brand has permission to delight), Virgin America may put itself first in line for travelers planning their next trip. Other U.S. airlines? They might want to think hard about the way their customers want to travel—from booking to boarding and beyond.
• Caitlin Barrett is a New York-based word wrangler. Follow her on Twitter: @badnewsbarrett