Learning To Perfect Service

Friday October 18, 2013 / Posted by Madhu U.

Did you know we have a full-size replica of an aircraft cabin on the first floor of our headquarters in Burlingame, Calif.? Actually, it’s not that unusual; most airlines do have cabin mockups that are used to train cabin crew (inflight teammates – ITMs — here at Virgin America).

Virgin America’s Cabin Service Trainer

Virgin America’s Cabin Service Trainer was built by Spatial Composite Solutions and arrived in Burlingame in 2011. It’s a 1:1 scale replica of the fuselage of an Airbus A320-family aircraft, which comprise Virgin America’s entire fleet.  As our guests know, these aren’t small airplanes. The video below doesn’t explain how to get a ship in a bottle, but it does show how we got a full-size aircraft fuselage replica into an office building.

Our ITMs undergo an intensive five-week training program before they serve on our aircraft, and at least one week of this program is spent in the Cabin Service Trainer, learning the nuances of Virgin America’s award-winning service. This is accomplished through instruction, role playing and finally serving “guests” recruited from among headquarters staff.

The Cabin Service Trainer features fully operational lighting, signals and alerts and communications to replicate the in-flight experience more realistically. Perhaps most surprisingly, the facility also features fully functional ovens. This allows our ITMs to learn in-flight food service as it would happen on an actual flight.

Virgin America is the only domestic airline to allow guests to order food or cocktails via their seatback in-flight entertainment screens. Orders pop up on a touch-screen crew panel in the back of the cabin, and our ITMs deliver the orders on trays, instead of relying entirely on the traditional cart service. These seem like small changes, but with 149 guests and limited time onboard, the use of the cabin trainer allows our crew to perfect a food service approach that is unique in the domestic skies.

Our ITMs learn the nuances of Virgin America’s service during training in the Cabin Service Trainer

Although service training focuses mainly on the guest, we also use the Cabin Service Trainer to teach ITMs to work safely. This includes showing ITMs how to lift and secure guests’ bags in the overhead bins without injuring themselves; how to hold food-service trays to reduce the risk of carpal tunnel syndrome; and even the safest way to carry their own bags off the aircraft and through the airport.

That’s our Cabin Service Trainer in a nutshell. If you have any questions about the facility, please leave them in the comments below.