How High Can Style and Design Elevate Virgin America?

It’s difficult to imagine there were ever glory days for the airline industry. Today, many travelers loathe the idea of flying; rigorous and invasive security checks, delayed flights, baggage fees and drab terminals operated by uninspired employees all make for an unwelcome experience. Virgin America, however, is banking that it can change air travel.

The hip airline has created an ambitious branding strategy and PR campaign that focuses on customer experience. By providing upscale amenities in terminals, dressing its flight attendants in sleek attire, and offering gourmet in-flight food served on real dinnerware, Virgin America believes it can differentiate itself from the competition and attract more customers who are willing to pay a little extra for a pleasurable travel experience. But just how much is mood lighting and craft beer worth to flyers?

As Americans adjust to the “new normal” and tailor their expectations regarding their economic futures, most are cutting expenses. When purchasing an airline ticket, travelers typically make decisions based on price rather than experience. However, when one’s company is footing the bill, most flyers like to go as upscale as possible, and the aesthetic offered by Virgin America suddenly becomes the most desirable option. After all, the airline is courting the “datable and promotable” demographic, which presumably translates into young, single and upwardly mobile professionals. Cool people like cool things, and Virgin America is trying to be just that.

The airline also has a situational connection to many American flyers because it is attempting to achieve success with limited resources. Virgin America doesn’t have the heft or access other major airlines can leverage, so it’s counting on creativity and resourcefulness to close the gap. The airline is involved in a David vs. Goliath struggle, that is, if David wore couture and had a penchant for yoga before traveling.