Virgin America Shows TED Videos, Your Airline Should Too

It’s a cliche to bemoan the general decline of airline service and amenities so I’m doing something radically different this weekend – praising a great (if small) concept that all airlines could easily copy. Virgin America, the fashionable and hip new airline out of San Francisco is showing a selection of TED videos on their in-flight entertainment system.

For those not in the know, the annual TED conference (also localized into dozens of independent mini conferences) is a gathering of the brightest minds in science, entertainment and design. At the conference, folks gather to hear remarkable speakers discuss a host of issues: “ideas worth spreading.” The general themes typically embrace such weighty topics as achieving world peace, environmental sustainability, the impact of technology on society, politics, and more… without exception, the presentations are captivating, inspiring, and humbling.

Although it costs upwards of 10-grand to attend the conference, organizers have made all TED presentations free on their website to anyone curious enough to check them out. That means an airline with a high regard for the intelligence of their passengers would be able to present them – and Virgin America has done just that.While most airlines relegate passengers to second-rate sitcom re-runs and movies guaranteed to be inoffensive at best, Virgin had the foresight to think outside the box, digging up a rotating selection of TED videos to offer. To me it demonstrates not just better entertainment, but a commitment to higher standards in general. If Virgin thinks TED talks are important, I’d say it shows a higher consciousness of leadership coming from the airline. At least I’d like to feel that way…

Anyway, lest I put too much importance on the matter, since TED videos are free, why can’t all airlines throw a few up on their system? Doing so might even set of a trend, getting passengers to talk and debate while in flight and on the ground. And anything that spreads the popularity of TED talk has to be good – it might even give folks a little more perspective – to a place where cramped seating and bad food seems less of a problem.

All TED talks are ~19 minutes long. Here’s a particularly fascinating one by Richard Preston on the complexity of the Redwood Forest. Enjoy…

Nick Aster is a new media architect and the founder of has grown to become one of the web's leading sources of news and ideas on how business can be used to make the world a better place.

Prior to TriplePundit Nick worked for Mother Jones magazine, successfully re-launching the magazine's online presence. He worked for, managing the technical side of the publication for 3 years and has also been an active consultant for individuals and companies entering the world of micro-publishing. He earned his stripes working for Gawker Media and Moreover Technologies in the early days of blogging.

Nick holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio School of Management and graduated with a BA in History from Washington University in St. Louis.