thedesignair.net interview with Simon Lloyd
Marketing Director, Virgin Atlantic
I was lucky enough to grab some time between meetings with a very busy Simon Lloyd, Marketing Director for Virgin Atlantic on the VS045 headed to New York. After sipping on some champagne and savouring a brilliant burger in the ever award winning Clubhouse in Terminal 3, I was directed to the plane, where on my arrival I took my seat, had my coat taken and prepared myself for a great short hop on the ever successful Virgin product across to the States. It wasn’t my first flight in Upper Class, and it definitely wasn’t going to be my last.
As I started looking through the film listings, one of my favourite pastimes when onboard an aircraft, I was greeted by a very cheerful Simon Lloyd, who introduced himself to me, and explained that we would grab some time by their onboard bar to have a chat once airborne before heading to his own seat.
After some quick introductions and a great glass of wine, we started talking business. My first port of call, Virgin Atlantic’s newest venture.
So Simon, as we know, Little Red is Virgin Atlantic’s newest venture. Is it being marketed as a feeder carrier or a standalone domestic carrier? “With Little Red we are looking to offer flexible point to point travel between destinations as well as to offer better connections to Virgin Atlantic’s worldwide network. The schedule of the new flights is timed to maximise connections for passengers travelling onwards from London across Virgin Atlantic’s global network and there will also be early flights to serve business fliers reaching morning meetings in each city.”
What can we expect for Little Red over the next few years? “With Little Red we are looking to bring a taste of the customer service Virgin Atlantic is world-renowned for. We are working with various brand partners including Tyrrells, Bacardi and Irn Bru and we would really like to expand this. We want to keep things exciting and fresh for our passengers and have been speaking to Krispy Kreme and The Collective Dairy yoghurts. Obviously we would like to expand our domestic network with Little Red but it is difficult given the current situation at London Heathrow. We will always be looking for opportunities though.”
Will we see it expanding further afield? “At the moment we are focussed on making our UK domestic flying progamme a success and at this stage, don’t have any plans to expand beyond this.”
Do you believe there is a market for a Virgin America style carrier in Europe? “Virgin America definitely brings something different to the market and I think it could definitely work in the Europe. It offers great fares as well as a fabulous product and some really interesting technology for passengers.”
Will Little Red turn into the UK’s Virgin America? “If we could replicate Virgin America’s success that would be great! Virgin America has a fantastic product and has done really well in the US.”
Sitting on-board the majestic 747 though, I couldn’t stop with just Little Red. Who can forget an airline brand that has forged product development in aviation over the 25 years and has strived to bring the magic back to flying. It was time to ask about the mother-brand that borne a pushy little upstart brand.
The #fitfoo campaign was brilliant, has it had a positive impact? Both BA and Virgin are advertising both emotional attachment and atmospheric concepts rather than hard product, why do you think this is? “We really wanted to capture the essence of Virgin Atlantic with this new campaign and bring the glamour and fun back into long-haul travel. We felt that this campaign emphasises the airline’s passion for flight and demonstrates how Virgin Atlantic goes beyond the norm to deliver unforgettable experiences for its passengers. So far it has had a massive impact – we have really highlighted that ‘Flying in the Face of Ordinary’ is more than a marketing campaign; it is a powerful brand proposition and long term platform that will be reflected in all areas of the business from communications and marketing to product and service.”
What can we expect from Virgin Atlantic? Any new products? There has been rumours of a new uniform? “We have had a really busy couple of years with new Clubhouses in JFK and Newark, a new Upper Class seat, new inflight entertainment a huge project refitting our 747s. We are continually innovating and developing new products but nothing we can reveal at this stage. Watch this space!”
Can we expect any product developments on either the A380 or the 787 fleets when they finally arrive? “At this stage we can’t reveal too much but we are currently in the design stages for our new aircraft and our in-house team is working really hard to give them the Virgin Atlantic flair that our passengers have come to expect from us.”
Let’s talk about brands. What’s your favourite brand asides Virgin, that you think is successful, and what similar elements do you think Virgin has? “Personally my favourite brand is Apple. It may have come under pressure lately from many competitors such as the Android handset manufacturers but I totally admire it’s relentless pursuit for Brand consistency and compelling product design and consistency. Apple is a brand that has the confidence to just do what it wants to do in its own way and achieves enviable customer loyalty. I believe Virgin Atlantic has the same irresistible qualities as a brand. We are also relentless in our pursuit for excellence in customer service and want to keep delivering product and experiences that our Customers’ love.”
What brands does Virgin have partnership with, and how do these partnerships come about?“Virgin Atlantic has a partnerships team which sits in marketing which proactively approaches like-minded brands and also goes through the thousands of requests we receive each day. We have some great partnerships in place ranging from large companies such as Bacardi to small family run companies like the Indulgence Cupcake Company.”
It was almost as if by magic, one of the impeccable cabin crew appeared beaming from side to side, and told me my lunch was ready, and was with a polite goodbye, I headed back to my seat to enjoy my food, my movies and the view and leave Simon to attend what could only be a wealth of emails. When we landed, and as I left, it was with a great smile and handshake I left Simon, to spend the cold day in New York, before heading back to the UK on a later flight.
It seems that Virgin Atlantic do have some fantastic developments headed our way in the future, and many have wanted to know what the next step for this independent player in the UK is, but to be honest, experiencing it, you can’t help but feel, there isn’t much they need to change, but just keep on perfecting and reinvigorating. We look forward to seeing a ‘Little’ more ‘Red’ in the sky.