The airport check-in experience has remained relatively unchanged for decades. Sure, there are more ways to acquire a boarding pass now than in the past but the passenger flow – especially when baggage is involved – has seen almost no creativity. For JetBlue’s CIO and Executive Vice President Eash Sundaram this stagnation is something of a challenge, one which he is helping the carrier to meet head-on at its Boston hub. Each interaction between passengers and the airline, via technology or direct contact, is being evaluated and many will be changed. JetBlue expects the passenger experience to change dramatically in the very near future.
The carrier is looking at options which will leverage technology to shift the interaction patterns at the airport. “When we think of the airports of the future and JetBlue it has to be transitional in nature, not transactional,” Sundaram explains. Rather than each step of the pre-flight process being a discrete transaction – queue for check-in, for bag drop, for security, etc. – Sundaram hopes JetBlue will facilitate a smoother flow through the airport. Less queuing and better flow should reduce the amount of time a passenger spends outside security, for example. And that is often the most stressful part of the travel experience with time cut-offs constantly nagging at travelers.
This doesn’t mean that we’re going to take all the counters out, all the kiosks out and going completely humanless. What we’re doing for our crewmembers is equipping them with mobile devices with more information on them so they don’t need to stand behind the counter and address customer needs. They can go to the customer and take care of them real-time.
Part of this is technology; JetBlue must have the proper tools available for the crew in the departures lobby to be able to manage the passenger flows without requiring traditional queuing, for example. An equally important part, however, comes with redefining what the passenger experience should involve.
First up for JetBlue with this new approach is the hub operations at Boston’s Logan International Airport. The carrier now has full control over Terminal C and has already started construction on the necessary changes to implement this plan. It will come in phases as the construction completes – the airline needs to continue operating while the shift is being implemented – but later next year it expects to have redefined the airport experience much in the same way it changed in-flight when the carrier launched 14 years ago, with a focus on the passenger experience.
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