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Video: Virgin America goes for geek market with gadget-packed seat backs as DoT mulls revised offer

Proposed US start-up carrier Virgin America has launched a video campaign showing the tech-savvy in-flight devices it hopes will win it the geek passengers' support as details emerge of the “significant” structural changes the airline's bosses have made in a bid to get US Department of Transportation clearance.

Virgin America's lobbying arm has posted two video clips highlighting its proposed in-flight entertainment (IFE) system on popular video sharing website youtube with the aim of driving people to its petition site. In the videos (below), Virgin America chief executive Fred Reid and Virgin America's director, IFE & partnerships Charles Ogilvie outline the system which includes a 110V powerpoint, high-speed Universal Serial Bus (USB 2.0) port, and RJ-45 (ethernet) port in every seat in addition to the standard video on-demand, live television, seat-to-seat instant messager and e-mailing capabilities promised as part of the Red IFE system.

However, the invitation to Linux open source software developers to write code for the onboard games console has got many developer blog sites twitching in anticipation.


The video propaganda campaign comes as Virgin America revealed its revised application to the DoT included diminishing the influence of UK entrepreneur Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and sanctioned further investment from US owners, in a bid to demonstrate compliance with US laws and attain certification in the near-term.

Significantly, if deemed necessary to gain certification, the company is prepared for Reid to be removed from its board of directors or to “have its board not renew or terminate” his contract prior to any launch date.

These concessions are outlined in an exhaustive response by Virgin America to the DoT’s 27 December rejection of its application, a move the carrier nonetheless believes “would not survive judicial scrutiny”.

Among the changes being implemented, Virgin America’s US investors have agreed to undertake the “difficult, sensitive and time-consuming process of identifying and removing any non-US citizen participation or voting ability in any of their funds”, says the carrier. Virgin America estimates that if using a “traditional” and not “multiplying out” approach, the US citizen owners of Virgin America “will now more clearly constitute 75% voting ownership of Virgin America”. The Virgin America board will comprise six US citizens, two non-US citizens, and one non-voting US citizen, according to the airline in its filing

Additionally, it says, the parties have agreed to “change, weaken or eliminate entirely almost every Virgin Group ‘veto’ or ‘control’ item but leave in place any US investor veto or control provision from the parties’ subscription agreement, bylaws, stockholders agreement, and debt agreements”.

Virgin America wants to launch low-fares service from San Francisco using a fleet of Airbus A320 family aircraft. Its application for certification has come under a torrent of criticism from rival US airlines.

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