You might be able to escape in-flight phone calls (for now), but the friendly skies are certainly not immune to (or safe from) social networking.
Virgin America is stepping up its networking strategy from a simple seat-to-seat chat feature on digital screens on seatbacks to a fully-fledged in-flight social network.
The Burlingame, Calif.-headquartered company is teaming with Here On Biz, an app maker targeting business users, to develop what they boast as the first social network solely for meeting up and collaborating at 35,000 feet.
The airline revealed that the inspiration for the new in-flight feature came about from suggestions of a 2013 survey of Virgin America's most frequent flyers in New York, Dallas, and home base of San Francisco.
The platform will actually tap into another well-established professional social network: LinkedIn. Users of the Here On Biz app can locate their LinkedIn connections on Virgin America flights thanks purpose-built APIs, either at the airport or while en route.
The idea is to facilitate connections, either between people who might not have realized they would be on the same flight or completely new contacts.
For any passengers who simply want to be left alone (air travel is stressful enough as it is), Virgin America assured that even people with the app installed on their phones can adjust privacy settings to limit (or block) visibility to others onboard.
Still untitled, the platform is scheduled to take off on all domestic Virgin America flights by the end of February.
For now, interested travelers can download the Here On Biz app for iOS devices for free. In addition, anyone traveling on Virgin America domestic flights between now and July will be able to utilize the Here On Biz app for free through the Gogo network, much like free access available to Gilt and eBay.
Virgin America has routinely been one of the domestic carriers at the forefront of the airline industry when it comes to bringing consumer tech in to improve the flying experience.
Previous promotions include a free Chromebook rental program on select flights across the country to discounted (and sometimes free) access to Gogo in-flight Wi-Fi during the holidays.
Screenshot via Here On Biz/iTunes