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Red revamp adds mapping, shopping and open tab bar hopping

A major upgrade to Virgin America’s Red entertainment platform now provides passengers with access to a clutch of new amenities, including next generation, enhanced terrain view Google Maps, an open tab service for the airline’s on-demand menu and the first ever seatback in-flight digital shopping platform.

With the Red store, Virgin America and SkyMall have teamed up to give flyers the chance to browse hundreds of products and place orders from their seatback touch-screens. Products range from the Sony PSP with one game (retails for $329.00) to the latest Michael Kors tote ($268.00).

Virgin America says the debut of the Red Store represents the first time that SkyMall has developed a product line designed specifically for purchase through an airline seat-back entertainment system. Purchases earn two points toward the airline’s Elevate Frequent Flyer Program for every dollar spent.

"We are thrilled to bring our first interactive seatback shopping experience and a unique collection of cutting-edge products to Virgin America guests," says SkyMall COO Jay Scannell. "This is a logical step for our company as we continue to expand our merchandise offering and focus on new technology for both airlines and loyalty program partners."

Other new features include:

* Google Maps upgrades: Virgin America’s previous Google Maps platform provided interactive maps with multiple levels of zoom. The enhanced system features terrain view maps with fresher images and eight levels of zoom functionality;

* An "open tab": Passengers can now swipe their credit card just once per flight and order food, cocktails, movies and more – and keep a tab running during the flight. The tab will stay open until the passenger closes it, or until the plane descends to 10,000 feet. Virgin America has been cashless since its launch in August 2007;

* Premium food pairings: Virgin America now provides suggestions on pairings that come at a discounted price via its unique Red in-flight menu system. For example, a Pacific brie and turkey sandwich, paired with PopChips and Peach White Honest Tea, is available for $13.60;

* A custom bar: In addition to its regular selection of cocktails, Virgin America now offers a "Cocktails with Altitude" custom bar, which was developed with the input of frequent flyers, social media fans and in-flight teammates. Guests can select a "Mile High-Tini" from their Red touch-screen, swipe a credit card and the makings of a custom cocktail (illy issimo Iced Cappuccino + vodka) will be brought to them via tray service. Other cocktails include "Tequila Tea," top-shelf Tequila + Peach White Honest Tea and the "Sweet Tree," eco-friendly VeeV Acai Spirit + cranberry juice.

"We’re pleased to continue working with Virgin America to offer the most detailed seatback maps in the skies," says Google Maps product marketing manager Jesse Friedman. "With fresh data presented in our beautiful terrain view, this update improves travellers’ ability and desire to track their flight progression as it happens. Flying is simply more fun when you can explore what’s below."

"From our 2007 launch, our mission has been to harness new technology and design to reinvent the flying experience and give guests more comfort, choice and control," says Virgin America president and CEO David Cush.

"Red was already the largest and most advanced in-flight entertainment platform in North America, but these latest enhancements will give guests even more options. The debut of enhanced Google Maps, shopping and even an open tab are all firsts in the in-flight entertainment space, and we intend to keep investing in our system in order to deliver the best in-flight experience in the skies."

"Investment in our product is a core part of our business model and will allow us to stay ahead of the competition and win over consumers," he adds. "Onboard ancillary revenue is a growing revenue stream for us and all airlines, and we want to drive it in a way that gives travellers more value-added options they will appreciate. Custom cocktails, food pairings, an open tab and shop have all not only been part of our Red roadmap from launch, but they’ve also been requested by our guests."

Other Red options include

* Watch: Live satellite TV, cached channels, on-demand films, premium TV and an on-demand music video library;
* Play: A variety of video games navigated by a qwerty keyboard handset at every seat;
* Talk: A seat-to-seat chat feature;
* Eat: an on-demand menu system; and
* Listen: a 3,000 MP3 library and platform to create playlists in flight.

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