With my first small step into the blogosphere, I want to thank Fast Company’s Lynne d Johnson for this window to reflect upon how technology is changing the air travel experience, what it means to you, and why.
But I especially want to use this space to shine light on tech stories that have the potential to change our air travel experience — and hopefully for the better!
For example, there’s JetBlue.
The quintessential low-fare carrier is caught in the same lemon-squeezer as the majors: competitive pressure to reduce costs and improve shareholder value. So while juggling manpower and technology issues, JetBlue is stepping outside of its one-size-fits-all business model in a way that that ought to make the vertically gifted rejoice.
The news: In early March, JetBlue passengers will begin enjoying more legroom. That’s because the airline will be loosening its 32-inch legroom standard by pulling one row of seats out of each of its A320s. The result: A new 150-seat cabin configuration. The details: Two inches will be added in rows 12-25 to ensure at least 34 inches of legroom, while Rows 1-11 will stretch to a comfy three feet even.
TravelWeekly reports that the legroom initiative actually was driven by cost-cutting. The backstory is that JetBlue will achieve this by flying with one less flight attendant. FAA rules require one attendant for every 50 seats. The money saved jettisoning that attendant outweighs the revenue lost from having six fewer seats to sell.
It also represents an opportunity for JetBlue.
The big question still unanswered is, how will the carrier make these seats available to consumers, and at what price?
Airlines today are beginning to unbundle their “product” and charge a premium for premium services. From spacier seats and club lounge access to priority luggage handling and preferred check-in, carriers are changing the way we buy and fly.
These changes don’t come without challenges. Airlines are relying as never before on technology as enabler of innovation and differentiation. How will JetBlue, whose consummate model of simplification is supported by comparable technology, adapt?
Will its legion of followers feel they are enjoying greater choice, or will they feel nickel-and-dimed?
Will JetBlue be able to make lemons into lemonade?
Here’s where I plug in the futurist’s favorite cliché: Only time will tell.
Until then, cool your jets.
Airline Futurist • Miami • firstname.lastname@example.org • www.amadeus.com