JetBlue built its brand on a new standard of in-flight customer experience when it launched in 1999. Guided by its brand North Star to “bring humanity back to air travel,” the fledgling airline offered beleaguered economy passengers better seats, better entertainment, better snacks, and an all-around better customer experience. JetBlue had the prescience to understand that customer experience is inextricably linked to brand experience.
Our TRUE brand compass research shows that JetBlue has established itself as a major airline brand with consumers but has not yet risen above the competitive pack. JetBlue ranks as a TRUE brand follower, alongside air transportation stalwarts like American Airlines and United Airlines. But will it rise to leader status? On the back of a couple of headline-grabbing passenger incidents, a recent USA Today article raised questions about whether this pioneer of a better airline customer experience has “Lost Its Heart.” For me, the question is not so much whether JetBlue has lost its heart but whether the brand has failed to keep pace with consumers’ rising expectations of brands. Does JetBlue still have the prescience to see what will build the airline brand of the future?
Our research shows that a consistent experience is critical for building airline brand resonance. And in 2014, a good in-flight experience is necessary but no longer sufficient to build a leading airline brand. Consistency of experience must now go beyond the flight itself. Delta understands this. The 85-year-old airline is investing $3 billion in new services, technology, and facilities to improve the customer experience in the air and on the ground. From better apps to better gate facilities — like the new enhanced waiting areas at New York’s La Guardia airport, kitted out with multiple work stations and a plentitude of power outlets to let passengers recharge themselves and their phones while they wait for their flight. Delta has a way to go before its services manifest themselves in better brand perception — like JetBlue, it ranked as a TRUE brand follower — but it is on the right path.