JetBlue's Award Winning Use of Technology & Automation

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JetBlue

Shortly after its launch, back in 2000, JetBlue acquired a technology company called LiveTV. This was a bold move for a fairly unknown carrier at the time. This acquisition allowed JetBlue to survive the lean air travel years that occurred just after the 9/11 attacks in 2001. While other established, well-known airlines were going out of business, JetBlue was able to grow, and grow profitably, against all odds because of their use of technology.

The LiveTV acquisition put JetBlue on the map as the first and only American carrier to offer free satellite TV with 24 channels on board for every passenger.

JetBlue’s use of IFE (In Flight Entertainment) by having a TV screen in front of every passenger was an innovation leapfrog that kept low-fare, low-cost passengers coming back for more. To compete with JetBlue’s approach to be the carrier of choice for low-cost passengers, well-known carriers such as Delta Airlines and United Airlines launched their versions of low-cost carriers, namely, Song and Ted, which have subsequently been absorbed back into the parent companies due to their inability to compete with JetBlue.  Neither Song nor Ted had the technology muscle that JetBlue continued to flex as it beat these two low-fare carriers out of the market.

JetBlue continued to improve upon their initial technology breakthrough when they   subsequently installed DirecTV on all JetBlue planes, with a dedicated screen in every seat.

A couple of years later, the airline added SIRIUSXM satellite radio, TV shows, and movies to the offerings.  JetBlue leveraged the proximity of its major hub at Kennedy International Airport to be able to offer exclusive New York Times TV stories as part of their continued IFE expansion. This was also another airline first and an evolution of their already well known IFE capabilities.

While a number of other airlines have tried to copy JetBlue's in-flight offerings, JetBlue has continued to upgrade and improve its IFE with  free in-flight seat-back TV's with 36 channels of DirecTV, 100 channels of SiriusXM radio and first-run movies for $5.99 per movie on domestic flights, which are free on international flights.

It is the way that JetBlue has leapfrogged other carriers by using innovation and staying ahead of the technology curve that has distinguished this carrier as the number one airline for customer satisfaction in the low-cost carrier segment in North America for 11 years in a row by J.D Power.

Today, JetBlue’s use of Information Technology (IT) is at the core of its growth strategy. The carrier’s goal is to focus all employees on functions and tasks that cannot be otherwise automated. To that end, JetBlue now not only offers a 100% paperless  check-in process but with their Auto Check-in feature, the JetBlue system checks a passenger in automatically and mails the boarding pass to the passenger’s preferred mobile device 24 hours prior to departure. This capability completely eliminates the need to stand on any line for flight check in.

This same IT innovation enables all flight attendants to use an I-pad onboard to accept Apple Pay; alert passengers by name of a potential connecting flight delay; and, recommend alternatives.

Apple Pay onboard is another airline first – that is, the only airline that is capable of accepting Apple Pay in the sky is JetBlue.  The airline is also working to enable this same functionality with the Apple Watch.

Branding, having the best and most capable airplanes and other obvious strategies will only get a niche airline so far. By extension, it is those companies that are able to deploy the right technology at the right time that will be able to differentiate themselves from the rest of the pack.  

Approach this case study and best practice from a practical perspective and examine your business to determine what you should be doing to set your company or commodity product/service apart from the competition. Using automation in order to free up precious human capital goes a long way to providing excellent customer service and in turn, customer satisfaction.

But equally as important is knowing when to launch a new technology initiative in order to be first or best.