Global Lens on Virgin America has Everyone Seeing RED™

This month marks the 3rd anniversary of our partnership with Virgin America, and in honor of that special occasion, Santhosh Daniel, our Director of Programs, and Alfy Veretto, Manager of IFE Content and Partnerships, took a few moments during the last days of summer to reflect on where it all began—and where it’s all going.

Below is an excerpt of their conversation, which as you can see, reflects the unique style that has come to typify the GFI-Virgin partnership.  It’s been a good time for everyone and for those of you who haven’t yet seen what it’s all about, catch a flight and catch a Global Lens film on Virgin RED™!

Santhosh:  It’s been about three years since we first began working together—all of which began with a serendipitous trip on one of Virgin’s first domestic flights, and an instant synergy when we met.  In thinking back to those “early days,” do you remember what exactly appealed to you about GFI and Global Lens? 

Alfy:  Wow, has it already been 3 years? Time flies when you’re having fun! I think personally, what attracted me to GFI was being able to help individual filmmakers who love what they do, get some exposure onboard our aircraft. When we created the Foreign Film section on RED™, we did it to give our guests a broader range of entertainment. Teaming up with GFI let us use the Foreign Film section to give a voice to those who have something to say.

Santhosh:  And when we talk about synergy, that’s exactly what we mean–as the trademark phrase of Global Lens is “every person has a voice…”

Alfy: I agree and we all need to find a way to have our voices heard.

Now Playing on RED™

Santhosh:  So, tell us about the RED™ player and its evolution on Virgin.  Most people know it to be a one-of-kind entertainment system on the airline, but what people don’t know is that you’re the individual that actually first brought this type of in-flight entertainment system to the U.S. market…

Alfy:  RED™ was actually developed by several individuals working as a team to create a unique and entertaining flying experience. RED™ gives each and every guest their own 9 inch touch-screen to watch satellite TV, on demand movies, on demand TV, foreign films, music videos and videos from the web. Guests can listen to music from a selection of pre-programmed radio stations or build their own playlist from over 3,000 mp3s.

We also have a selection of games to enjoy, a great shopping section where you can buy gifts for family and friends or go into our make a difference section and donate to a worthy cause. Guests can even order food and drinks from their seat and one of our inflight team members will deliver it to them. From when we started we’ve added a few additional perks, made changes to our satellite TV lineup and a lot of what we do comes from feedback that we receive from our guest. And the guests notice.

Last week Virgin America received 4 awards at the Airline Passenger Experience EXPO. We won for Best inflight video, Best Ground experience, for the 3rd year in a row we won for having the best passenger experience in the Americas region and for the 2nd year in a row we won for Best Overall passenger experience (that’s us against all airlines in the world). The awards are determined by feedback from passenger online surveys. Even with all these awards, we are still looking for ways to improve RED™.

Santhosh:  Poker and chess.  If those two things show up on RED™, I certainly wouldn’t complain.

Alfy Veretto, Manager of IFE Content and Partnerships, Virgin America

Alfy:  Those have been a few request made by our guests but I don’t want to stop there. I want our guests to play the games have at home or try a new game they’ve heard about and have not had the opportunity to play. I’m working on a building a partnership with a very popular game company for our next IFE system. I can’t say who it is but needless to say, it’s a house hold name.

Santhosh:  And of course there’s more to Virgin than just RED™.  In that sense, most everyone knows our mission is to support film, arts and education in the U.S. and abroad, and that everything we do is tied to that vision (in fact, every dollar we receive from Global Lens on RED™ goes directly toward grants for filmmakers).  But that’s our ethos.  What about Virgin, and your “mission” and “vision?”

Alfy:  Our mission from day one has and always will be to reinvent air travel. We want our guests to enjoy getting to their destination as much as being at their destination. I always say that I like to think of our little airline as I do about life. It’s not the destination but the journey that gives you the moments to remember.

Santhosh:  It’s a good point, and goal.  But, speaking of “life,” maybe you can tell us something about you?  I know you’re a Bay Area-transplant, and I think you like jazz—but how did you get involved with Virgin and a pretty niche part of the industry? 

Alfy:  Well I’ve always had a passion for TV and movies. I spent the better part my life hanging around the local TV station in El Centro, CA where I grew up. My Mom was the office manager. As soon as I was old enough I got a job there as a part time receptionist. I started learning about every department at the station from traffic, programming, master control, editing and anything else I could learn. I eventually became the Program Director. It was my job to find the right kind of content for the TV station.

Now Playing on RED™

After my time here I ended up in Denver, CO and took a job in Frontier Airlines’ marketing department. The airline started to look at adding TV to the aircraft. I talked with the VP of marketing and informed him of my time at the TV station and suggested we create a role to oversee the TV. I got the job and created the IFE department for Frontier. I was there for 8 years until a friend who had moved from Frontier to Virgin America asked if I would help out the person Virgin had overseeing the IFE. I agreed and after some time, Virgin asked if I would be interested in a job with them. I could see that Virgin America was going to give me the ability to grow so I made the move to the Bay Area.

Now I oversee all the content for Virgin America and serve on the board of Directors for APEX. I continue to help enhance the future of IFE for not just Virgin America but the industry in whole.

Santhosh:  So, what’s next for RED™ and Virgin America?  I saw that one of your planes is starring in a Hugh Jackman film…

Alfy:  We are a part of the movie Real Steel, starring Hugh Jackman. A lot of the fun promotions and marketing ideas come from the people who fly with us. They enjoy the experience and fall in love with the airline. Then they look for ways to work with us; much like GFI. When we find people and companies who are as passionate about their own work as we are with ours, we usually find ways to work together.

 

Global Lens on RED™ currently features selections from the Global Lens 2011 series and can be seen on all Virgin America flights.  Every dollar received by the Global Film Initiative via Global Lens on RED™ goes toward supporting the Initiative’s Granting Program, which provides production funding annually to filmmakers in Africa, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Middle East. 

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