In journalism, I've enjoyed meeting so many people with unique personalities. Their passions and perspectives have been refreshing and serve to inspire new ideas in others. Uncovering the stories behind this passion has been a lot of fun for me.-
Here is my new cover article on the San Francisco-based Virgin America. This airline is attempting to redefine customer service and return an exciting passenger experience to air travel. For the June 2014 issue of Airways, we also welcome our new Editor-In-Chief Enrique Perrella!
This has been a lengthy assignment of one-year. What Anthony Bourdain finds fascinating as a chef traveling the world for CNN sampling dishes and cultures, is similar to what I find fascinating about my work as a journalist--in this instance--of commercial aviation. At the core, is my love of people and what makes them tick. This becomes the focus of my business interviews involving the CEO's "behind the headlines" of the business press. This particular article is without an interview. Either way, while some may loathe this as less than exciting reading matter, I beg to differ. The passion of new ideas invariably stimulates readers to consider new points of view in whatever career field they are pursuing. Think of comedy, and comedian Bob Newhart comes to mind with his observation: "Funny is funny". Similarly, I suggest that excitement and innovation can inspire others from one business to another. The motivation to create a product of value out of one's passion has always been the focus for me in my writing, not airliners or their technology. Don't misunderstand me. Each is a fascinating subject. But the people who drive ideas with a multitude of interesting personalities is key for this writer.
What led me to create this assignment was, in part, the personality of Sir Richard Branson--who has his finger on the pulse of more than 400 Virgin branded companies. His charisma and enthusiasm for running businesses with dynamic verve is always part of "pushing the boundaries" of the status quo. A part of his core philosophy is creating a business model and a product so unique from the competition, that the challenge is to match this intrigue by delivering quality service that is superior to anyone else.
In this regard, it's no secret that the domestic airlines in the United States have not only consolidated--much to my regret--they've also become lackluster. Strong words, but true. The American public has always demanded value for their hard-earned travel dollar. When it became obvious in the mid-1990's that airlines in the U.S. indistinguishable from the other and far from exceptional, Branson saw a need to "mix it up". He did so by introducing an airline that focused so intensely on providing a high level of customer service, that competitors either wouldn't or couldn't match this effort. Moreover, he endeavored to leave the passenger with a feeling of genuine excitement associated with their air travel experience. Think about it. When was the last time you took a commercial airline flight and felt that the experience was fascinating? It's safe to say that the aura of travel has generally become more of a nuisance than a pleasure outing. This begged the question: "What makes Virgin America so different?" I hope to answer that question shortly in the June issue. Have a great weekend!