Virgin America has announced several changes to its 'Red' in-flight entertainment platform, which offers travelers a range of new amenities such as enhanced 'terrain view' Google Maps, an open tab service for the airline's on-demand menu, and a seat-back in-flight digital shopping platform. This article is copyright 2010 The Best Customer Guide.

With immediate effect, travelers on Virgin America are able to browse hundreds of products and place orders from their seatback touch-screens via the Red store (powered by SkyMall).

Every purchase made in the sky via the Red store allows passengers to earn 2 Elevate points per US$1 spent.

"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," explained David Cush, president and CEO for Virgin America.

With the Red store, Virgin America and SkyMall have teamed up to give flyers the chance to shop from their seatback at 35,000 feet from hundreds of brands such as Sony, Canon, Sharp and Michael Kors. Products range from the Sony PSP with 1 game (which retails for US$329.00 and is worth 536 Elevate programme points), to the latest Michael Kors tote (retails for US$268.00 and is worth 536 Elevate programme points).

The debut of the Red store marks the first time that SkyMall has developed a product line designed specifically for purchase through an airline seat-back entertainment system.

Travelers on Virgin America flights will also find a range of other new features in the Red system, including:

  • Google Maps upgrades: Virgin America's previous Google Maps platform led the industry with interactive maps with multiple levels of zoom. The enhanced system features 'terrain view' maps with fresher images and eight levels of zoom, so travelers can see the actual topography over which they are flying;
  • An 'open tab': Passngers can 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 stays open until the passenger closes it, or until the plane descends and reaches 10,000 feet (at which time it will automatically be closed and settled);
  • Premium food pairings: Virgin America is now providing suggestions on pairings that come at a discounted price via the Red in-flight menu system - for example a Pacific brie and turkey sandwich, paired with PopChips and Peach White Honest Tea (US$13.60);
  • A custom bar: In addition to its regular selection of cocktails, Virgin America has now launched a 'Cocktails with Altitude' custom bar, which was developed with the input of frequent flyers, social media fans and in-flight team members. 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 and Vodka) will be brought to them via tray service.

According to Jesse Friedman, product marketing manager for Google Maps, "With fresh data presented in terrain view, this update improves travelers' ability and desire to track their flight's progress. Flying is simply more fun when you can explore what's below."