JetBlue Impressions: Good then Bad

February 17, 2009

jetbluepillow2_080408_mn1Back from a short stay in the Dominican Republic and innovation is on my mind.  Of course most of my thoughts are on travel, in general, and how it can be made better/easier/more convenient.  If you missed my post last week on innovative travel service ideas from the road, check it out.

A lot has been said about the struggling airline industry.  And, with a few crashes in the past month, they obviously have some important things to look at.  But they still have yet to really get the business right.  In a recession, people are looking to the companies that help them out.

It was my first time flying JetBlue, and overall I had a very good experience.  Their terminals are big and comfortable and come with many amenities.  The planes are roomier and more comfortable than other airlines that I have flown in the past.  Overall, I see a lot of people praising JetBlue, but they do lose some of us.  Here is where they lost me, or at least their business model lost me.

They advertise special services that you can pay for on the flight.  You can pay $5 for an in flight movie, but they only have 2 choices, and I can’t start and stop it whenever I like.  You can pay $5 for special food or beverages, except they don’t take cash.  And finally, you can pay $7 for a pillow and blanket which they claim is a “State of the art, most comfortable pillow and blanket set ever”.  Are you kidding me?

First of all, thanks to the guy sitting in front of me, I got to see this “magical set” first hand.  Let me tell you this, if you have ever gotten a pillow or blanket on a plane, this was the same or worse.  It was, in no way, more comfortable.  And second of all, the stewardess, along with the advertisement in the brochure, make a big deal out of the fact that you can take it with you when you leave.  Awesome!  I remember when you could take the free ones with you.

A note to all airlines, you’re trying to scam your customers.  I know you operate in a tough industry, but it is one that will always be there.  Air travel is a modern day necessity and it’s not going anywhere.  Figure out how to model your pricing so that you can afford the amenities we want.  Cut down on costs that are dragging you down, perfect the processes that are costing your employees time and money, and get the business back on track.  Some airlines are moving in the right direction, but others are moving backwards.  Wake up.

Readers, take your shot at the airlines that have caused you trouble in the comments section below.

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Innovative Travel Service Ideas on Vacation

February 13, 2009

dominican-republic-natureI find myself thinking about travel right now.  Maybe it’s because, even as this post goes live, I am probably sitting on the beach in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic.  But nevertheless, it is an important subject to think about because there a lot of untapped ideas out there.

First, I still believe that the online travel sites leave a lot to be desired. Planning a trip is not as easy as it should be, considering how far we have come in the spread of ideas and access to information.

In college, my roommate and I were planning on starting a social networking site for travelers.  How has this not been done yet?  How have one of the big players in online trip booking not added this feature to their website.  It does not have to be much, just a place where people can record their trip with photos, blogs, etc.  Also have them set a profile with details about what they look for in a trip, destination ideas, a wish list, and travel history.  Allow them to “link up” to other profiles, search information to find photos, blog posts, and travel ideas from other users.

If you put all of this on the same site that we can use to plan a book a trip, it would be much more complete, and much more helpful.  It is what the people want, who is going to give it to us?

Second, in a tough time for the travel industry like this, what can companies that service that industry do to entice travelers?  Are there any hotels that offer better packages when the economy is bad?  Are there open hotel rooms that companies could be giving away dirt cheap to gain customer loyalty and spread brand awareness?  There should be. If you own or operate a business that caters to the travel sector, now is the time to focus on what your customers need, and give it to them, no questions asked.
Third, how can the airlines continue to compete? Airlines are probably some of the most complained about companies out there.  It’s a tough job.  People don’t like the hassle of traveling, the time it takes, the uncomfortable feeling of it all, etc.  Many of the airlines are trying to help out people by eliminating delays, offering cheaper deals, and more locations.

But the companies that are performing the best are concentrating on making people more comfortable. It’s like admitting the act of travel is annoying, but telling them that while they have to go through it, we will make it as pleasant and convenient as possible.  This can be done with things like comfortable waiting areas, better cabin service, wireless connectivity, better food and beverages, etc.

I will leave you to ponder all of that as I enjoy a few relaxing days on the beach.  Add your thoughts here…what are some ways that “travel” could be better?

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When We Need to Retool

October 12, 2008

There are times when an industry has gone as far as it can go on their current practices.  At times like that, it becomes necessary for a new player to come along and shake things up.  Most often, it takes a new player because the cost of changing the way an existing company does things is far to great for anyone to get accepted.  There are too many highly paid board members and CEO’s with too much pressure from stockholders to suggest drastically changing something within an organization.

As an example, I will use the struggling Airline industry.  Nothing seems to be working for them now.  At one point, it appeared that Southwest Airlines has come into an industry that needed a new player at the right time to change the way things work.  But it is apparent now that the change that should have been felt was not widely accepted.

When you have to charge someone an extra $20 to change their reservation on the phone, there is a problem.  In affect, you are scamming someone who is already your customer.  This person has already made the decision to fly with you.  They have already paid money, choosing your service over that of your competition.  So why make them question that decision?  Why make it any harder for them to get what they need?

When you have to charge people to check a bag based on how much it weighs without announcing that to them before they come in, there is a problem.  If I purchase a ticket online, and it does not warn me that I will pay an extra $15 because my bag is one pound over a limit, what am I supposed to take from that?  What happens the next time I need to fly, am I going to happily choose your company again and pack a little lighter?  No, probably I will do some more research and do everything possible to choose another carrier.

So what does the airline industry need?  Where does it go from here?  For starters, it needs an outsider’s persepective.  It will need a new leader, one that steps up and challenges the things that today’s giants take for granted.  How can you reward people for being loyal?  How can you save money for the company, and relay that savings to everyone who chooses your service?  Fuel is expensive, but is there a way to pay for rising fuel costs by cutting your expenses in another way?  Stop looking for little ways to “steal” money from customers.

It’s time for someone to start to think a little differently about the way that we fly.