How simplicity and lifestyle branding drive loyalty for airlines

JetBlue is using technology to bring humanity back to travel.

Speaking at the Aviation Festival in London last week, Eash Sundaram, CIO, JetBlue credited technology for helping the airline deliver on this brand promise.

He says focusing on simplicity of the travel process is key to earning return customers.

“Everything that we do with technology is aiding that personal, helpful, simple customer experience.

“If you make that flying experience sublimely simple, you can build more loyalty than just throwing in points or miles, and all of those of things. We firmly believe that simplicity is what will keep us in business and make our customers happy.”

Simplifying air travel requires more than customer-facing initiatives, like JetBlue’s recent experiment with facial recognition boarding, but goes deeper into day-to-day operations, he suggests.

Innovation hinges on introducing technologies and processes which eliminate points of friction for customers, and stumbling blocks for staff—all of whom JetBlue refers to as members of “crew”.

“We always say a great customer experience comes with a great crew member experience. The basic foundational capabilities of the airline have to be strong..that’s what we’ve done in the past three to four years.

“We’ve been bringing all of these systems together, investing in the foundational capabilities, whether it’s maintenance systems, or crew systems.”

During the same session at the conference, Gareth Evans, CEO of Qantas International says technology has helped the airline make more of what is already a highly successful loyalty program.

The Qantas Frequent Flyer program is tailored around the traveller lifestyle and identity, including a host of personal services, like health and life insurance, the sale of exclusive luxury items, and a wine connoisseur’s club epiQure.

Evans describes the program as “the most penetrative loyalty program in the world,” with more than half of the Australian population signed up as members.

Ensuring the program resonates with its base requires an effective gathering and processing of member data, he says.

“We put the brand in relationship with the customer. Because of the data that we have about our customers, we have built a deeper relationship.”

As a result, he adds: “We’re expecting 7-10% growth per annum in our loyalty program.”

This branding has also resonated with SAS customers.

The airline has focused its competitive strategy around the needs of its core frequent flyer customers, reflected in the campaign “We Are Travellers,” first introduced in 2014.

In 2016, the airline invested in a 360º digital platform to boost sales through “life-related” products.

Like JetBlue, the Scandinavian airline has also found that simplifying the travel process is an integral part of building loyalty.

The SAS Lab, tasked with making travel more convenient and seamless, has not been shy about pushing the limits on innovation in its experiments, even getting under passengers’ skin.

The airline also equipped crew with iPad Minis to deliver personalised services to customers, including checking on status of baggage and matters related to the frequent flyers’ EuroBonus accounts.

Finnair has also adopted a blend of simplicity in air travel and lifestyle branding as part of its loyalty-building strategy. The airline is putting customers at the heart of its digital innovation and looking closely at their daily habits, likes and dislikes, when developing new systems.

Finnair Chief Commercial Officer Juhä Jarvinen said earlier this year that the company wants to excel at “intelligent travel” through applied technology while extending commercial reach to lifestyle products.

“We strongly believe we need to widen the ecosystem of an airline. Why do we always choose the thing that is the lowest margin business when there is a lot of opportunities around us such as banking, door-to-door and destination services,” Jarvinen said.

Related reading:

Finnair unveils Finn chatbot based on NDC technology

JetBlue banks on proactive customer service with investment in Gladly

Qantas pushes concierge bot out after home market trials

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Marisa Garcia

About the Writer :: Marisa Garcia

Marisa Garcia is the tnooz aviation analyst. She has covered travel technology, design, branding, and strategy for leading publications, including Aircraft Interiors International Magazine, APEX Magazine, AirlineTrends, and Travel+Leisure. She also shares industry insights on her site Flight Chic. Fly with her on Twitter.



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