Here’s an interesting site I stumbled upon yesterday: v-flyer.com, a customer-owned site about Virgin Atlantic with over 200,000 unique visitors a month. This is how it describes itself:
Welcome to V-Flyer, the largest independent guide to flying on Virgin Atlantic. Created and maintained by Virgin Atlantic customers, V-Flyer offers advice and guides on every aspect of Sir Richard Branson’s famous airline. Whether you want to find a seatmap, see which types of inflight entertainment is onboard, or just want to find out more about Virgin Atlantic – you’ll find it here.
This is a pretty extensive site, which has grown over several years. I was interested to see how Virgin itself appears to have managed its relationship with it, as described the v-flyer here:
Virgin Atlantic themselves had by this point started to take notice of our little site, and supported VirginFlyer with a feature in their own customer newsletter, iFly. The attention of Virgin Atlantic also brought the attention of Virgin Group, and to stay on their friendly side it was agreed that the site would change its name to V-Flyer to avoid any confusion with Virgin Group companies.
… which sounds like a pretty sensible way to engage with your fans.
I think you’d rather have a v-flyer site about you than this one I found about United Airlines: Untied.
I also spent some time exploring flyertalk, This has extensive customer forums for each major airline. There are appear to be a lot of heavy users (one percenters) here, and I was surprised by the granular detail being exchanged, for instance on how to finesse the various frequent flyer schemes, get upgrades, avoid poor lounges etc. There’s even a kind of dating service to get into airline lounges as the guest of other forum users with travel plans that overlap your own. Some particpants are employees of airlines, variously slagging off or sticking up for their employers. If you spend a bit of time here, you can learn a lot of intricate anecdotal information about what’s really happening inside an airline. Fascinating.
When Hugh talks about the global microbrand, it’s the micro part I like best. And these sites are helping to identify the granularity of big brands… if you like, they’re showing us the microbrands inside the macrobrands.