“Virgin America’s new app is exactly what you would expect from Virgin: it’s cool. The lighthearted animations and easy interactions make an app that is one of the better examples of product design we reviewed.” —juror Libby Bawcombe
“Clean and sophisticated design in a crowded space.” —juror Harold Jones
Overview: Exasperation inevitably settles in the hearts of all who enter the airport—not so for the Virgin America flyer, who has the airline’s mobile app to thank. The handy mobile tool enables iOS and Android users to quickly book flights, manage travel and get real-time notifications when it’s time to check in. It can even switch modes on the day of travel to focus on check-in essentials. And with the ability to store personal information, by the time you land, the app will already know that, no, you’d rather not jostle for armrests in the middle seat.
•The app builds on the unique design of Virgin America’s website, which Work & Co redesigned and developed in 2014.
•Fast Company hailed it as the app that “puts a travel agent in your pocket.”
•The app took thirteen months to design and develop.
Comments by Lindsay Liu, group director, marketing:
What are the project’s core features? “Booking a flight in 60 seconds or less: the app stores preferences, like preferred credit cards, companion information, seat preference and your favorite destinations, in order to prefill as much as possible. Getting real-time flight update and check-in notifications. Being contextually aware: automatically shifting into ‘travel mode’ on flight day to focus on what travelers care about most, like quickly checking in, picking or upgrading seats, storing the mobile boarding pass, and seeing flight alert information. Virgin is also the first airline to integrate with Spotify to provide destination-themed playlists.”
What software, back-end technology and programming languages were used? “The front end is written completely in native code for iOS and Android. Work & Co also invented a new platform that shares the same business and experience intelligence across multiple platforms on C++ and Lua. A Lua virtual machine is embedded and wrapped with a hardware adaptation layer codenamed ‘Maku.’”
Did you meet with any out-of-the-ordinary obstacles during development? “We simultaneously developed native iOS and Android apps so guests have access to the full suite of rich features from any mobile device. We made no compromises in creating the fastest and most enjoyable travel app, choosing to build native apps over the industry standard of WebView or an off-the-shelf platform. Even though both apps are purely native at the user interface level, we developed a custom platform for sharing business and experience intelligence. This means that if we make one update, it pushes to both platforms. This is a highly unique approach that enabled us to develop quickly, and it also will enable easier updates and maintenance.”