Posted July 23, 2010 9:31 am by with 2 comments

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Google has a real buddy in the airline industry with Virgin America. During last year’s holiday travel season Google offered free WiFi on all Virgin America flights. Now, Google and Virgin have expanded the in-flight maps offered to travelers as they can now get topographic information about where they are and more.

Google’s LatLong blog tells more

….as a part of our continued partnership with Virgin America, we’ve completely updated the Google Maps data on the touchscreens of every airplane seat. As before, the map shows you almost exactly where you are, and you can zoom and pan to explore. Now, with our beautiful terrain view and fresh Google data, the maps are not only prettier, but also highlight mountains, elevation and other natural features. In other words, it more closely matches what you’d actually see if you had cloud-penetrating eyesight and looked out the window from 35,000 feet.

I’m all for anything that passes the time on a long flight. Of course, having never flown Virgin America I can only imagine that this would keep my ADD at rest for a few minutes.

The real point here is that Google is expanding far beyond the confines of search in an effort to become less reliant on their search ad business. They have a long way to go for sure since search is a disproportionate percentage of revenue but Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Google, of course, is helping Virgin who is expanding its fleet by 60 planes (making Airbus very happy). How? It just so happens that they announced these plans and improvements on the very same day. Gee, what a coincidence!

So Google and Virgin America are buddies. I wonder if there is room for other airline relationships for Google? After all, the people on those planes are firing up their smartphones as soon as they land to figure out what’s next. You think Google is interested in being top of mind at that point in time?

  • This is really interesting, and would be very interesting if it turns out to be true.

  • This is fantastic! My first experience with any real in-flight maps was in 2009 en route to Tanzania. The Delta flight had great maps with a little interactive flair. Recently I flew about 15,000 miles on South African Airlines. Their seatback maps sorely need the flair that google is adding on Virgin America. Sitting on a plane for 18 hours with only a series of rotating maps to choose from is painful!

    I hope that other international carriers look to add this great functionality to their seats for the sake of all of us traverlers!