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Virgin America rewards travelers via mobile check-ins

Airline Virgin America is tapping into the mobile deals space by giving consumers offers for checking into the San Francisco International Airport.

Virgin America is using check-in service Loopt to reward consumers located in the T2 terminal at the airport. The airline has previously used Loopt’s check-in service for shorter deals, but with the new initiative the deals will run through Dec. 22.

“As a new airline known for our tech-friendly features, we tend to have flyers who are more plugged in and engaged in the mobile space,” said Abby Lunardini, vice president of corporate communications at Virgin America, San Francisco.

“We thought real-time airport check-in deals would be a fun and engaging way to connect with our loyal flyer base,” she said.

Virgin America is an airline headquartered out of San Francisco that specializes in domestic flights to cities including New York, Seattle, Chicago and Boston.

Loopt is a mobile application and Web site that helps connect users with their communities.

Come fly away
To enter the VX Deals on the Fly program, consumers can use the Loopt app to check-in to terminal T2 when traveling.

Loopt is a free app available in Apple’s App Store and Google’s Android Market.

After checking in, users watch a promotional video about T2 and are randomly assigned a deal from either Virgin America or an in-airport merchant.

Examples of deals from Virgin America include 10 to 20 percent discounts on last-minute flights.

Bigger prizes include two-for-one tickets and free flights.

Here is a screen shot of examples of the Virgin America deals

“We have seen that when users are traveling, there is a higher rate of check-ins,” said Sharon Howell, senior manager of corporate communications at Loopt, Mountain View, CA.

“People want to share their updates with their friends at home about their travels,” she said.

In addition to Virgin America, consumers can receive deals on retailers in the airport.

Participating merchants include Kiehl’s and Cat Cora’s Kitchen, which include coupons for free food and product samples.

Split-second deals
This is not the first time Virgin America has used check-in rewards at San Francisco International Airport.

Last year, the company ran a similar one-day promotion for consumers who checked in to airports and taco trucks (see story).

Virgin America also used tied mobile check-ins last year with frequent flyer points via a partnership with Topguest.

Clearly, Virgin America saw an opportunity to target on-the-go consumers with a longer promotion.

Location-based services such as check-ins are becoming more widespread with consumers.

“There is such an inherently exciting use of a mobile phone while you are traveling,” Ms. Howell said.

“People are in the mood to do more than just share their location – they are often in a new city and want to use mobile to discover deals and fun things to do as well,” she said.

In particular, users now want to receive a reward or incentive for checking in on their mobile devices.

Most recently, location-based experts at OMMA Global discussed the monetization opportunities marketers now have with consumers (see story).

“The idea behind the new Terminal 2 was really to create a space that is much more enjoyable and aimed at reinventing the airport experience, which is similar to the idea behind our airline,” Virgin America’s Ms. Lunardini said.

“We wanted to give our guests one more reason to explore all the new terminal has to offer and increase engagement with our brand,” she said.

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York