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Virgin America turns seat upgrades into live auction via SeatBoost app

Virgin America is maximizing ancillary revenue while providing positive brand experiences with live bidding for seat upgrades via the SeatBoost application.

All of the airlines’ departing passengers at Las Vegas McCarran International Airport as well as those departing for Las Vegas from the San Francisco International Airport can use the app to participate and bid against one another for available seat upgrades in a live auction environment. Winners are notified via the app and issued new boarding passes in their upgraded class.

“The feeling of excitement and happiness experienced by travelers, which we are helping to create, is something that the airline has been enthusiastic about,” said Kevin Stamler, CEO of SeatBoost. “We believe it is one of the reasons why they continue to open up additional routes for us.

“On the revenue side, the airline has been pleased with the results and the high volume of upgrades we’ve been able to sell,” he said. “For the airline, partnering with SeatBoost allows them to continue to be at the forefront of innovation while keeping their guests a top priority. For us, we obviously get the benefit of having the support of a major carrier that is passionate about technology in the same way that we are.”

Gamifying pre-flight time
Virgin America recently introduced SeatBoost on select flights.

Ticketed passengers on available routes can enter their flight number into the SeatBoost app 90 minutes before departure. If premium seats are available, they can join the auction and start bidding for an upgrade.

Virgin America can also hold back inventory so it can protect perks for its Elevate frequent flyer members.

For passengers, the app turns a typically boring pre-flight gate time experience into an exciting game-like auction as passengers compete for the top spot on the leaderboard.

For the airlines, it is able to drive incremental ancillary revenue from seat upgrades.

Tech-savvy passengers
The SeatBoost app gains access to premium or upgraded seat inventory using the Farelogix API and a direct connection to airlines.

For Virgin America, which is based in Silicon Valley, the partnership with SeatBoost continues its experimentation with new products and services for its tech-savvy passengers.

Other airlines also continue to find new ways to leverage mobile to enhance the travel experience.

Frontier Airlines is modernizing its in-flight services by equipping flight attendants with tablets and a mobile point-of-sale system that creates a faster and more convenient checkout process (see story).

Budget brand Ryanair is employing customer-first mobile features within its application, enabling travelers to take advantage of one-click options for reserving seats and upgrading, as well as rate their flights and boarding processes (see story).

JetBlue has relaunched its iPad application, adding 100 percent native booking and making it easier for users to quickly search for a flight without the need to create an account (see story).

So far, Virgin America is seeing positive results from the SeatBoost program.

“We have groups of users that are regular commuters on the routes where SeatBoost is available,” Mr. Stamler said. “Those users are consistent customers and join the auction nearly every time they travel.

“Our auctions last for around 60 minutes so we are typically seeing engagement take place for 30 to 60min,” he said.

“We also often see fierce competition in the airports for premium seats, especially when there are only one or two seats available and people have made up their minds that they want them. The gamification elements play a big role as people get excited and want to win.”