JetBlue Airways: Mobile vital for both customers and crew #AppsWorld

Ahead of his appearance at Apps World Europe, MarketingTech spoke with JetBlue Airways head of mobile and emerging technologies Jonathan Stephen, about the day to day life and challenges of mobilising an airline carrier

For today’s sophisticated jet-setter, their mobile device is almost as indispensable as their passport.

From all-in-one apps to electronic boarding passes, mobility is increasingly becoming an enabler for the traveller to enjoy a seamless check-in without the traditional stress.

That’s the theory, anyway. And according to Jonathan Stephen, the head of mobile and emerging technologies at JetBlue Airways, now the airline has sussed out iOS and Android integration, other platforms and devices are next on the list.

“We’re continuing to look at emerging platforms and see where we can create an engaging experience for our customers,” Stephen tells MarketingTech in a call.

“[And] I don’t think it’s a secret that we should have some kind of a tablet experience. There are many different platforms that are out there, however we’ve looked to build our products on the platforms that our customers use.

“We have redesigned our mobile website to continue to provide services for those customers that don’t have access to applications, such as Windows mobile phones or BlackBerries, and we’re closely looking at our tablet strategy and seeing what we can do to build a better experience for our customers there. That’s something that will happen soon,” he adds.

JetBlue was formed in 1998, in the midst of the dotcom bubble, and Stephen has been working there as head of mobile since 2011. According to Stephen, roughly 10% of JetBlue’s web traffic comes through mobile, with close to two million downloads across iOS and Android combined, so it’s definitely a lucrative market to tap into.

And it’s not just money which companies are missing out on. “I wouldn’t attribute it solely to revenue,” Stephen notes. “I’d say you’re missing out on opportunities to give your customers a better experience.

“Even post-booking, mobile plays a very important role for the traveller, and if an airline does not have information readily available for their customers on their smartphone, that’s a miss.”

That includes being in the air too – JetBlue announced Wi-Fi capability to be rolled out next year, which Stephen notes came about because their customers “were very vocal that we didn’t have it.”

Customer expectations, Stephen asserts, are a continual challenge, to get the best product out there.

“It’s important for us to make sure that not only do we build easy to use, beautifully designed products, but also products that actually work, and we’ve got to make sure that we find the right strategic partners to help us carry out our strategy,” he notes.

One challenge in particular day-to-day is integration with legacy software, trying to make the right call at every turn. Stephen notes how mobility is becoming more important both externally and internally.

“For our customers, we make sure that our apps are connected to our reservation system so they can book flights and check flight statuses,” he explains. “Internally, we’re looking at providing our pilots with tablets, and also our in-flight teams with tablets to get additional information.

“We see mobility as important – not just for our customers but also for our crew members to be able to access their systems internally, to be able to better serve their customers.”

But could airlines be mobile-first, or even mobile-only in the future?

“It’s interesting,” Stephen says, “because the direction we’re headed in it wouldn’t be too far-fetched to see that.

“A lot of people look at mobility as a silo and they look at it separately from the web. I personally look at it as a different landscape altogether, and really there’s a blur between the desktop, the tablet and the mobile, and as a brand, it’s your responsibility to make sure that no matter how your customers are accessing your content, it’s consumable on that device.

“I think over time, we’re going to continue to see more and more people using mobile devices and tablets to have the full transactional opportunities that they have on the web, and that’s something that’s been a focus for us.”

Stephen is speaking at Apps World Europe on October 22, and he’s looking forward to seeing what his comrades in the mobile space are coming up with.

“I love brand innovation,” he notes. “I’d be interested in seeing how other brands are engaging with their customers, what types of technologies they’re using, and lessons learned, best practices.

“Overall, it would be great to see many fellow colleagues there.”

Jonathan Stephen is speaking in the Mobile Marketing track at Apps World Europe, in Earls Court 2 London on October 22-23. Find out how you can attend by visiting here.

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