‘Entourage’ pairs with Virgin Airlines

JFK to Vegas flight renamed after HBO show

It was only a matter of time before product placement took to the skies.

HBO has paired with Virgin America to rebrand the airline’s flight from New York’s John F. Kennedy Intl. Airport to Las Vegas as “Entourage Air” throughout September.

Effort promotes the fifth season of “Entourage,” which bows Sept. 7. At the same time, HBO programming becomes available on all Virgin America planes as part of a licensing deal that runs through October 2009.

In addition to wrapping a Virgin America plane with “Entourage” signage, the airline will screen the season premiere of the show on the Vegas-bound flight beginning Sept. 4, when the airline launches its direct route.

Move is the latest effort by a TV network to preem a series on an airline to a captive audience. CBS has preemed shows on American Airlines in the past.

Pact kicks off with a sendoff party at JFK that will include the “Entourage” cast, as well as Virgin Group founder and chairman Richard Branson, who launched Virgin America last year. A party at the Palms Casino Resort’s Playboy Club follows once the flight lands in Las Vegas.

As part of the promo, Virgin America will introduce “Entourage Class” to first-class passengers, which includes noise-canceling headphones, champagne, Godiva chocolates, Kiehl’s products, Altoids and “Entourage Air”-branded blankets and eye masks.

HBO was attracted to the airline because “‘Entourage’ appeals to the same savvy, sophisticated consumer that flies Virgin America,” said Courteney Monroe, exec VP of consumer marketing at HBO.

Deal is the latest move by Virgin America to help the fledgling airline stand out among its rivals by promoting its in-flight entertainment system.

Dubbed Red, the touch-screen system offers 25 movies, on-demand TV shows, satellite TV, videogames, Google Maps, MP3s and musicvids. Virgin America plans to expand the system with more offerings.

“The entertainment options are a big differentiator and selling point for us,” Lunardini said.

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