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Friday, May 02, 2014, 07:40 am PT (10:40 am ET)

Virgin Atlantic unveils new airport terminal experience powered by Apple's iBeacon

Travelers on their way to and from Virgin Atlantic flights in London Heathrow airport are set to receive a new, more personalized experience, as the airline is piloting an iBeacon-powered program designed to ease passage and save time and money.




Using iBeacon's microlocation functionality, Virgin Atlantic's new initiative will automatically surface relevant information for passengers using iOS devices depending on their location in the airport. The airline partnered with iBeacon hardware firm Estimote for the physical infrastructure, while a custom pass in Apple's Passbook application provides the on-device interface.

In one example, passengers in Upper Class — Virgin Atlantic's name for its combination business class and first class cabin — can have their boarding pass automatically brought on-screen as they approach a security checkpoint. This feature could save travelers a significant amount of time and frustration as they would no longer need to keep track of a paper boarding pass or search through their device for an electronic version.

Virgin Atlantic also hopes to use iBeacons to help passengers once they are waiting for their flight. Passing by a Moneycorp currency exchange counter, for instance, would surface a special 0% commission discount offer unavailable to other travelers.




The Crawley, U.K.-based airline would like to personalize its offerings even further as the initiative progresses, according to customer engagement executive Reuben Arnold.

"At this stage, we've only skimmed the surface on the advantages that this technology can offer our customers," Arnold said in a release. "In the future, we expect it to further personalize 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."

Apple's iBeacon has seen rapid adoption since its introduction last year. The technology's ability to locate devices with a high degree of accuracy, especially inside buildings, has sparked a wave of creative uses.

Apple started the adoption ball rolling, outfitting all of its U.S. retail stores with transmitters. Perhaps the largest rollout to date, however, comes from Major League Baseball — the league has equipped as many as 20 ballparks with iBeacons that help fans with information about stadium amenities, baseball history, and special offers.