Virgin Atlantic CEO Craig Kreeger spoke at the Skift Global Forum in Brooklyn October 15.

Kreeger, who was appointed CEO of Virgin Atlantic Airways in February 2013, previously worked at American Airlines and has a a 27-year career spanning commercial, financial and strategic roles in the U.S. and around the globe. AAEAAQAAAAAAAAScAAAAJGNjMDdlYzM5LWUzZDMtNDk1OC04YzQzLTNiM2ZmMzMxZTMzOQ

Kreeger addressed the topic of “How to Build An Airline Brand By Not Participating In the Premium Rat Race.” Here are six things we learned:

  • On luxury and premium cabins, Kreeger realizes Virgin Atlantic can’t compete with the Gulf carriers in terms of leadership in the category because of Virgin Atlantic’s relative lack of resources. Instead, Virgin Atlantic has to compete in the way its crew delivers services on board and through its entertainment offerings, for example.
  • Virgin Atlantic encourages its onboard crew to make decisions and is willing to live with some inconsistency. Other CEOs ask him how to develop that customer service “magic” and Kreeger believes it is in empowering employees and being willing to back them up.
  • Google Glass was the winner over Samsung’s Smartwatch in a test to get more interaction between Virgin Atlantic’s customer service personnel and premium customers at Heathrow. Smartwatch didn’t work as well because people looking at their watches is “actually the universal signal that I’m bored with you.”
  • Virgin Atlantic conducted a two-month test of boarding through Heathrow’s holding areas, which resembled what Ellis Island must have looked like, Kreeger said. By calling customers to the gate 15 minutes later, it enabled customers to board the planes right when they arrived at the gates and satisfaction scores increased 25 percent.
  • Delta, which owns 49 percent of Virgin Atlantic, doesn’t want the brands to become more like one another and wants Virgin Atlantic to keep differentiating so it can better compete against British Airways. Virgin Atlantic, meanwhile, can learn from Delta about scaling automation and techology, including for maintenance issues.
  • Delta has incorporated some of Virgin Atlantic’s design principles into Delta’s lounges.

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And thanks to all the sponsors that made Skift Global Forum 2015 possible: Adobe, Amadeus, American Express, Boxever, Big Bus Tours, CendyneOne, Cheapoair, Criteo, Gogo, HelloGbye, Hornblower Cruises, MasterCard, Mindtree, National Geographic, NewsCred, Sabre, SiteMinder, Travel Channel, TurkeyHome, Uber, Underline, Virtuoso, and Yahoo.

Photo Credit: Virgin Atlantic CEO Craig Kreeger (right) speaking at the Skift Global Forum in Brooklyn October 15, 2015. Henry Harteveldt of Atmosphere Research Group interviewed him. Skift