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JetBlue iPad app forthcoming as mobile’s influence extends for travelers

jetblue small optNEW YORK – This year, JetBlue will introduce an iPad application, translate its mobile site for local markets, add high-speed Wi-Fi to all of its planes and equip flight attendants with iPad minis as mobile’s role in building customer loyalty throughout the travel journey continues to grow for the airlines.

A JetBlue executive outlined these and other innovations from the airline at the Mcommerce Summit: State of Mobile Commerce 2014 last week during the session “JetBlue Airways: Transforming Air Travel through the Use of Mobile.” The iPad app will have a bigger focus on the planning phase of travel compared to JetBlue’s smartphone app to address the different use cases for these devices.

“We didn’t want to recreate a glorified iPhone app,” said Jonathan Stephen, head of mobile and emerging technologies at JetBlue Airways, New York. “With the additional real estate and because we know that people plan travel on a tablet, we wanted to add additional features from the Web.

“There are native experiences as well – such as offline saving of iteniary, more browsing around destination guides,” he said.

“There is a lot of learning from the Web and bringing those to the tablet. Some of the features are more in the planning experience.”

Personalized experiences
A key focus for JetBlue in mobile is to create loyalty through personalization.

The company began its journey in mobile several years ago with the revamp of its digital products, rebuilding them on a platform that is scaled for growth and that integrates the JetBlue True Blue loyalty program.

Mobile has taken on a significantly larger role in the strategy as it became apparent that features such as electronic ticketing and booking on mobile were becoming important to consumers.

Mobile’s role also grew because it gives JetBlue a way to engage with customers throughout the travel journey and not just when they are onboard a plane.

Since the digital refresh, is now a leading airline site, and the app has been downloaded more than two million times, and True Blue enrollments are up 10 percent just on mobile.

The success was driven by the enhanced experience, with customers who sign in using their True Blue account getting a more personalized experience throughout.

Self-service travel
JetBlue is continuing to build on these initial efforts with a number of strategies.

For example, it started using mobile boarding passes last year. These are now available in more than 45 destinations, and the company hopes to make them available in every city the end of the year.

As a result, JetBlue customers are able to take advantage of self-boarding gates in the McCarran airport in Las Vegas.

The company is also starting to roll out high-speed Wi-Fi in some of its planes.

JetBlue is also using mobile internally for its employees.

For example, pilots can now use tablets instead of having to carry around heavy flight manuals.

Additionally, in-flight attendants will soon be equipped with iPad minis to help them service customers more efficiently by having all of their flight information on hand.

Google Glass
A bigger product launching this year is localizing the company’s mobile site through translation. This is being done in response to metrics showing a significant amount of bookings on mobile in markets such as the Dominican Republic where Internet access is sparse.

JetBlue is also experimenting with Google Glass to see how it might used. Possible use cases include seeing if a parking lot is full before driving into it, flight information and which charging stations are available.

Additionally, Mr. Stephen said the company is excited about beacons and how these could be used in the travel experience.

JetBlue is keeping an eye on the ways that mobile continues to impact the travel experience.

For example, a few airlines in Europe and the United States are experimenting with self-service bag drop, with customers able to scan their smartphone in the terminal to receive a bag tag.

“We are finding more efficient ways, not just in the air but in the airport, to service our customers and it centers around the personalized experience we can provide in their hands,” Mr. Stephen said.

“You see this whole self-service experience now,” he said. “You can book your travel on your smartphone, you can check-in and get your boarding pass, you can pass through security, you can even get your bag tag if you like and then you can board the plane.”

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York