60 Seconds with Alan Lias, Head of Loyalty & Business Development, Virgin Atlantic Airways

60 Seconds with Alan Lias, Head of Loyalty & Business Development, Virgin Atlantic Airways

We recently caught up with Alan Lias, Head of Loyalty & Business Development for Virgin Atlantic Airways. Virgin Atlantic is making a strong effort to reach customers where they live–in front of a computer.

InsideFlyer
How’s the Flying Club Facebook application being received?
Alan Lias
The Flying Club Facebook application is still in the very early stages as it only launched a short while ago, but so far Flying Club members are responding well and registering for the application through our Web site. Virgin Atlantic launched the application as we recognized that many of our Flying Club members were also Facebook users, and given our emphasis on being a customer champion and our commitment to innovative product development, we wanted to offer Flying Club Members a new and seamless way to tap into their account. Our Flying Club Facebook application allows frequent flyers to view real-time arrival and departure information, review mini statements detailing recent activity and miles summaries, recently booked flights, promotions and even share details of future flights with their Facebook friends. The significance of this application is that co-innovators of the Facebook app are Flying Club members and members of Virgin Atlantic’s fan community who helped shape the development of the Facebook application at the Virgin Atlantic VJAM session–an Open Innovation initiative with NESTA, the U.K.’s National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts.

IF
Can you telll us about Taxi2?
Lias
The Virgin Atlantic Taxi2 program allows passengers to easily link up with other travelers who may be on their flight, and traveling to a similar part of a city, so they can share a taxi ride and reduce their transportation costs and cut down on emissions. Passengers traveling on Virgin Atlantic and other airlines log onto taxi.to and input their flight and destination details, and the Web site will match them with a suitable traveling companion. They are then sent the details of the matched traveler and once they agree to the match they can make arrangements to meet up upon their arrival using a convenient Taxi2 sign that can be printed from the Web site. The Web site allows passengers to connect with traveling companions in any of the gateways we fly to such as New York, Boston, Washington D.C. and Los Angeles as well as London.

IF
Brett at CrankyFlier.com has suggested creating an application for Taxi2 to run on the in-seat video screen. Have you considered this?
Lias
Brett at CrankyFlier has come up with a great idea, but for now the Taxi2 program was specifically designed to work in conjunction with Virgin Atlantic’s Web site and has proved popular in its current form. At this time we have no plans to amend the program.

IF
Would you tell us a bit about the Flying Without Fear iPhone app?
Lias
The Flying Without Fear iPhone app was developed around Virgin Atlantic’s successful U.K.-based course, which has helped thousands of travelers overcome their fears of flying. The new app contains a personal introduction by Sir Richard Branson, a video-based explanation of a flight from start to end, a list of frequently asked questions, relaxation exercises and much more. The value of this program is that users can customize their app and rate their personal fears, which will prompt the program to recommend certain exercises and features to prepare them for their trip. Since the application’s launch in November 2009, we have received immense feedback from press and our fans. We were excited to see the app reach no. 1 in the Travel section of the App Store, demonstrating its usefulness and value among travelers who have a fear of flying.

IF
Flying Club won Program of the Year for EMEA at the Freddie Awards this year. Why do you think the program won?
Lias
The Freddie Awards are a nod to our focus and commitment to being a customer champion and putting the needs of our passengers first. Virgin Atlantic offers one of the most rewarding and generous frequent flyer programs, where our members can earn more miles per flight than other leading loyalty programs. Our extensive network of partners including airlines, hotels, car rental and more, allows members to earn and spend miles on everything from the practical to the unusual, and travel nearly anywhere in the world. Currently we are offering a reward seat sale that lets our members travel in economy from New York to London for just 29,500 miles, which is lower than standard levels, and stretches the value of every single mile earned. Flying Club members can also enjoy the advantages of the Virgin Atlantic American Express Card by Bank of America. We offer one of the richest credit card programs in the industry with three miles earned on each dollar you spend on Virgin Atlantic, and 1.5 miles earned on every dollar spent on everyday purchases. In addition, members can earn tier points without ever leaving the ground through everyday purchases. For example, every $2,500 spent on the card earns members one tier point, so they could potentially earn 24 tier points per year.

IF
Virgin Atlantic has recently partnered with V Australia but Flying Club members can only earn miles with V Australia. When do you expect to add award redemption?
Lias
Virgin Atlantic is currently working on plans to introduce reciprocal mileage redemption with V Australia and hope to announce an update on this shortly.

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