Virgin Atlantic lights the way with Apple’s iBeacon technology at Heathrow

By: Maxine Sheppard

May 6, 2015

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Following on from the successful Google Glass trial in our Upper Class Wing, Upper Class passengers at London Heathrow will become some of the first people to experience a new technology designed to give personal notifications to their phones via Apple’s iBeacon technology, which uses Bluetooth Low Energy and
geofencing to provide a connected service through their airport experience.

Smartphones, with Apple Passbook downloaded, in range of a device can receive communications from the beacon related to their location in the airport. For example, an Upper Class passenger approaching the private security channel can receive a notification for their phone to open their electronic boarding pass ready to be scanned by security. In the main area of the airport, passengers using the service will receive special partner offers, such as 0% commission as they pass the MoneyCorp currency exchange booth.


“At this stage, we’ve only skimmed the surface on the advantages that this technology can offer our customers,” said Reuben Arnold, our Brand & Customer Engagement Director. “In the future, we expect it to further personalise our passenger’s journey, such as notifying an Upper Class passenger that there is an open appointment in the Clubhouse spa or introducing the crew members on their flight as they board the aircraft. Our passengers are increasingly more connected as they travel and by using advanced technology we can improve customer experience and continue to put innovation at the heart of the flying experience.“

“The way we’re looking at iBeacon is probably not quite the standard use of it,” said James Shanahan, our Head of Development for eBusiness. “We’re talking in terms of the surprise and delight factor, and so while there may be the potential for future discounts and offers, we’re actually looking at how we can provide a greater customer experience.”

Other uses are also being looked at. The beacons come with a thermometer and an accelerometer, so could potentially be used to alert Clubhouse staff to temperature changes so they could bring blankets out to passengers relaxing on the outdoor deck if the weather becomes cold.

We’re also thinking about ways to serve rich content to passengers on their smartphones, like a map of the airport showing where amenities and their boarding gate is located, or even advance information about what inflight entertainment will be onboard in advance of their flight.

Earlier this year, we completed a successful trial testing Google Glass in our Upper Class Wing at London Heathrow. From the minute Upper Class passengers stepped out of their chauffeured limousine and were greeted by name, Virgin Atlantic staff wearing the technology were able to update them on a range of relevant information about their onward journey, including the latest flight times, available seats onboard, destination weather and arrival transportation details.

Book your flight with Virgin Atlantic today.


Maxine Sheppard

Maxine is the co-editor of the Virgin Atlantic blog. Travel and music are her joint first loves, and despite having written for Virgin for more years than she cares to remember she still loves nothing more than jumping on a plane in search of new sights and new sounds.

Categories: Our Future