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Virgin Atlantic entices travelers with augmented reality application

Virgin Atlantic is enticing travelers and training crew members with a new augmented reality application that offers a real-life tour of its new 787 Dreamliner?s cabin and a sneak peek at the traveling experience.

Interested consumers can view the augmented reality tour on their mobile devices by dragging their fingers across the screen to discover videos and explore the interior of the new aircraft, dubbed ?Birthday Girl.? The airline hopes that the true-to-life augmented reality app will drive more ticket sales and bolster its already-strong branding.

?One of the cardinal rules of marketing is to allow customers to ?try before you buy,?? said Nick De Toustain, director of sales at LTU Technologies, New York. ?Augmented reality apps in 2015 will help marketers do just that, in all kinds of new industries and sectors.

?As the public becomes more familiar with AR and its benefits, they'll be increasingly looking for (if not expecting) AR-based ways of evaluating a product or service.?

Highlighting flattering features
Customers can visit Virgin Atlantic?s mobile Web site to access the virtual tour, which is designed to highlight the airliner?s most flattering features, including new lighting, seats and personal entertainment centers.

Users who explore the cabin will also stumble upon various hidden videos, powered by YouTube, that offer more extensive glimpses into specific features. The entertainment center video showcases a customer using the system and selecting a variety of recent movies and music albums from the comfort of his or her seat.

Viewers can also more closely examine the Swarovski crystals dangling from the plane?s curtains by way of a video.

The application has dual functions, as it was originally created to help train crew members without needing them to physically visit the aircraft. Augmented reality has proven to be a useful tool for flight attendants in the classroom needing to get a convenient visual of the cabin interior before on-board training begins.

The airline is no stranger to augmented reality apps. Several years ago, Virgin Holidays released an app that placed users in a holiday destination through the use of augmented reality, which was designed to bolster the travel retail experience on mobile.

Engaging with social
Virgin Atlantic also focuses heavily on its social media presence to help augment brand awareness and promote its luxurious experiences, such as the first class airport lounges, called ?Clubhouses,? that it offers in select airports worldwide.

Travelers that spend time in the Clubhouses are encouraged to upload photos from their visits onto social media sites or apps using the #HowIClubhouse hashtag. In 2012, Virgin collaborated with content creator and distributor Largetail to promote sponsored content on the hashtag, which was then aggregated into a live feed on Twitter.

The Tweets and photos are also viewable on a standalone Web site, howiclubhouse.com.

Ultimately, the augmented reality application?s accessibility on mobile means that it will reach a wider audience and likely stir up interest in consumers browsing for potential vacation destinations. The interactive features are also optimal for iPads and other tablets and devices that individuals frequently use to browse.

Virgin Atlantic expects the application to moonlight as an additional marketing feature for their 787 Dreamliner as well as function as a training tool for crew members. With many consumers finding that videos act as the extra incentive needed for purchase, more brands and airlines will likely start leveraging augmented reality on mobile to highlight unique or luxurious options.

?While there's no substitute for training in a real aircraft (or a mock-up), if the AR-based training can speed up the real-aircraft training part, it makes sense for airlines to pursue,? Mr. De Toustain said.

?Customers could get shortchanged if airlines, in an effort to cut costs, rely only on AR-based training.?

Final Take
Alex Samuely is an editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer, New York